Croatia: Blood Boils In Vukovar Once Again – This Time For Human Decency

Vukovar Croatia 3 September 2013  Photo: Goran Ferbez/Pixsell

Vukovar Croatia 3 September 2013
Photo: Goran Ferbez/Pixsell

The Croatian government at this moment surfaces as a bully in a schoolyard filled with hurting children.

The Croatian government says the law must be respected and applied. Nothing wrong with that – except when the government ignores the full verse and meaning of the relevant legislation. While Croatia’s 2002 constitutional law on minority rights provides for the establishment of bilingualism (or multilingualism) when one or more ethnic minorities make at least a third of the total population in a particular region. Serb ethnic minority reportedly fulfilled that criteria in Vukovar in the 2011 census, however, that census is considered questionable given that it according to many consists of a relatively large number of Serbs who have a registered address in Vukovar but do not reside in the area.

Furthermore, the same Constitutional law stipulates that in the event of applying the minority rights to bilingualism the government must ensure that such an implementation does NOT cause a disturbance in the relationship of the ethnic minority with the national majority. This is an important subclause of the law Croatian government seems to have been ignoring for months and have failed abysmally in addressing the deep unrest its announcement to erect in Vukovar public signage in both Latin (Croatian) and Cyrillic (Serbian) scripts.

It was February of this year when the Committee for Defence of Croatian Vukovar (the symbol of suffering, mass murders, ethnic cleansing … perpetrated by Serb aggressor against Croatia from 1991) stated at a 20,000 people public rally in Vukovar against the introduction of signs on public buildings in the Croatian and Cyrillic script that it has “filed a motion asking the Constitutional Court to assess the constitutionality of the law on national minorities’ rights, that it wants the government to see to the arrest and prosecution of war criminals, and parliament to hold a discussion on the enforcement of the constitutional law at issue, that it wanted state institutions to enforce the law on the residence of every resident of Vukovar, and the town council to stop amendments to the town statute that would enable bilingualism in Vukovar”.
It was April of this year when another colossal in numbers (some 60,000 people) public rally occurred in Zagreb against the introduction of Cyrillic script on signs at public buildings and places. The Headquarters for the Defence of Vukovar sought at the rally that the authorised institutions of the government declare the city of Vukovar an area of special piety for all citizens in the country and the world and that in light of that Cyrillic (Serbian) should not appear alongside Latin (Croatian) script in public places.
If, within three months, you do not commence upon this request, you will, in that way, let us know that you do not respect our sacrifice…if, then, you come to Vukovar on the 18th of November, we will show you that you are not welcome there…”, said at that rally Tomislav Josic, president of Committee for the Defence of Vukovar.

18 November is significant in that it was on that date in 1991 when Croatia’s Vukovar fell into Serb hands after it had been ethnically cleansed of Croats and non-Serbs, after multitudes fled on foot with barely the clothes on their tortured bodies, after multitudes of Croats from Vukovar had been tortured and imprisoned in Serb concentration camps set up in the vicinity, after Vukovar had been completely destroyed and its buildings and homes reduced to unsightly rubble … but beastly murders and tortures of Croats from Vukovar did not stop on 18 November 1991 – two days later the Serb aggressor had rounded up some 300 Croat patients and civilians found at the Vukovar Hospital, dragged them to Ovcara nearby and slaughtered every one of them.

And we must never forget, as units of Serb-led Yugoslav Army members and Croatian Serb Chetnik rebels marched into Vukovar with only one aim in their sight – to murder every single seed of Croatian life there – they sang and chanted in Vukovar streets: “Slobo, Slobo, send us some salad, there’ll be meat, we’ll slaughter the Croats” (Slobo meaning Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic).

As I write this post – Vukovar is once again under siege. This time it’s hundreds of police guarding the city’s public places from Croats who, once they discovered that the government had in the dark of Sunday night erected bilingual signs on some 20 buildings, decided to smash, bring down those signs on Monday morning (yesterday) and rowdy citizens rallied and protested.

HRT TV evening news on Monday 2 September showed a woman in Vukovar saying the words to this effect: This is UDBA (Communist secret police) style, they came in the night and erected the signs on our buildings just like sons were massacred in the night and we still cannot find their bones…

Several people including police were reportedly slightly injured in scuffles between the protesters and the police in Vukovar yesterday as protesters climbed on each others shoulders and hammered down several Latin/Cyrillic signs mounted during the previous night. Five protesters we arrested for causing damage to public property; others vowed they’re not moving from there and that the police would have to carry their bodies away.

President Ivo Josipovic has called for unity among all political parties to condemn the actions of the protesters in Vukovar; he said law must be followed and applied. Ranko Ostojic, minister of internal affairs was adamant that law on minority rights will be applied and protesters causing damage punished and made to pay for the damage they have caused. He further said that all those who think that the constitutional law on ethnic minorities’ rights should not be applied are free to initiate its amendment, “and then we will apply a new one when it is adopted.”

Josipovic and Ostojic and the whole of the government appear as if they’ve just climbed from under a rock where they’ve been sleeping for the last six months! Indications are that they have done nothing to assist the citizens who have been seeking amendments to the law for quite a time; they’ve done nothing to take into consideration the part of the same law they’re applying that clearly states that application of the law must not cause unrest among the citizens etc. They’ve done nothing to examine the reliability of 2011 census figures and ensure that Serb minority in Vukovar does in fact amount one third or more and not less as is suspected.

And then Ostojic has the gall to say: “Those who fell in Vukovar fell for democratic Croatia, for a country of the rule of law and order, certainly not for violence.

How can we expect peace, non-violence, from people when the government itself does not appear to have applied the full meaning of the law in this case?  Like a thief (or like Stalin …), the government erected the bilingual signs in the dark of night, completely bypassing the full spirit, meaning and conditions of that law, which to my understanding means: bilingual signs can only be erected if they do not cause unrest, intolerance and stifle dialogue.

The siege of Vukovar is not over. Reportedly busloads of people from other parts of Croatia are arriving there and the protests against Cyrillic signs continue – people want Vukovar to be exempted from bilingual signage – to be declared as a place of remembrance for the horrors Croats suffered in the 1990’s war of Serb aggression. It’s not as if Croats are intolerant of bilingualism after all Croatia already has bilingual signs in other regions. In the northern Adriatic Istrian peninsula they are in Italian and Croatian. In other areas where there is a sizable Serb minority there has been no resistance to the use Cyrillic. But the government’s bullying stance in Vukovar will, it seems, ensure that this democratic reality of peaceful bilingualism in several places across Croatia is buried and belittled. Perhaps that’s what the government wants because it seems even the minister for the interior, Ostojic, doesn’t seem to think much of it as evidenced by his above said statement.

When a government does not know how to talk to its citizens, how to preserve their human decency then it’s up to the people to assert their rights to it. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. I didn’t know this was going on, but reading it I’m shocked. What a disgusting ting to promote in a city which symbolises Croatian struggles! As much as I love my parents homeland, sometimes I’m glad to be an “Aussie” when I read what shameful things the current Croatian govt is doing!

  2. We forget about others on our earth too much. This makes me glad I live in this country…for now

  3. such a contentious situation of a callibre unheard of in any other nation…. why do we not have Japanese signage in NT of Australia, or perhaps German in Israel afterall there is a minority in just about every country on Earth …..leave people alone, is EU is so stupid tb dictated to by criminal elements who are well known strategists for future wars…. Vukovar is Croatian not serbian minority by default….it’s enough to start blood boil in deep wounds never to heal… if those sniggering half croats think they’ll run Croatia in the dead of night they’ll have daylight nightmare responses….. Never never never again…. will Croatia bow to such evil.

  4. Reblogged this on Eyes of the Mind.

  5. Michael silovic says:

    Vukovar is our holy and sacred village it is to us what Rome is to the Vatican and we the people will not let this stand our blood is embeded in the streets of vukovar and our government must understand this or pay the price for their ignorance

  6. This is why I hate the EU.It has brought us nothing but bad things and they continue to force us to seek forgivness from the aggressors and the people who tried to exterminate us.

  7. This article is so one-sided.. First of all, the law is clear about bilingualism in Croatia. It is to be used if it doesn’t violate the rights of the majority. My question is: what rights of the majority are being violated here? It is OK for the ppl of Croatia to have road signs and other signs in Hungarian,a language that has many characters that do not exist in the Croatian language, but not in cyrillic?! My opinion is (and I’m not either Serb or Croat) that the Croatian people are hypocritical. They promote all the values of the EU, espacially human rights, but obviously there are NO rights for non-Croats in Croatia. What happened in Vukovar is not only WRONG, but it is the total capitulation of humanity.

    • Haris – there are plenty of places in Croatia that have Cyrillic (Serbian) signs as well as Latin (Croatian) and there has been no problem, but Vukovar is considered by many as symbol of extreme suffering from Serb aggression and people want it exempt fro bilingual signage and the law actually allows that – Vukovar is the perfect example to which the law refers that bilingual signage is not to be erected if it causes unrest etc and we have been seeing this unrest etc developing for months. What right of the majority are being violated here, you ask. The right to live peacefully. There’s no hypocrisy here just exercise of rights under the law. Signage is a problem there but so too is the fact that Vukovar’s school children are educated in separate schools: Serbs go to one school Croats to another, Serb minority, any minority should not only demand rights but also it should exercise responsibility toward the state, Croatia – and somehow we’re yet to see that

    • Amir Pilipovic says:

      Haris ,My friend couple months ago a polling was done in Serbia and has reveled that 70% of people is using Latinica,almost same number prefers Latinica and then to top it off some smart,educated serbs have made a claim that Cirilica is dying.With that in mind and some history knowledge you only can come to the conclusion that( what ever is going on in Vukovar) has nothing to do with democracy ,democratic rights,but rather with serbian intent to provoke or to show Croats in negative lights.Doing that they are trying to achieve one goal ,being to show how the world got it wrong in period of 1990-95.How serbs are little cute innocent puppies.Why to waste time or to push for something you don’t use to begin with.

    • The US has heaps of Hispanics in their country and you don’t see Spanish on government buildings. And if Hispanics had raped, robbed, pillaged and say, invaded the US in the last 20 years, you wouldn’t see people lining up to read Spanish in Washington!
      I dont know where you live but it goes beyond signage. Facts about the war are banned from the curriculum in Vukovar, women raped in the war by Serb soldiers see their captors because there is no justice… So before you fall off that-self righteous high horse..know the facts.
      And ask the Poles if they’d like German on government buildings post 1945!

      • Nativegrl77 says:

        I mean no disrespect but don’t forget the Spanish colonists that would later become the states of Florida, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and California or Ponce de León. The tell tale sign would be the names of major cities and street names … So, a couple of Wars and a revolution

      • But “illegal” immigration is one of the issues in the US that right-wing politicians use to distract people from real issues. I don’t think anything is more crucial to a democracy than the protection — and inclusion — of minorities. This is particularly true when the majority is impassioned by an issue.

        I live in Florida in the US and I was solidly opposed to those who made an issue over the mosque in New York. It was a non-issue. Most people, even in New York, didn’t know where the building actually was. Yet it was used as a means of riling people up. I’m opposed to that practice on principle. (And I’m someone who sees the spread of Islam as a very direct threat to Western Civilization. Yet one cannot pick and choose which laws one will abide by, unless the law is clearly unjust.)

        The law referred to in the article is in my opinion a just one and is also one important step in moving forward from the wounds of war.

        As an example of something my country did right: the Japanese and the Americans left the war behind us quickly. Despite the most incredible atrocities imaginable. The Japanese made a surprise attack on our naval fleet, killing 2,000 military personnel in one day. During the war they routinely tortured and abused prisoners. The US fire bombed their capital for weeks, and then we dropped two nuclear bombs on two of their major cities. Yet, we quickly put the war behind us. There are many things the US can be ashamed of, but that is not one of them: it’s perhaps our finest moment.

      • I agree that it’s crucial to protect and include ethnic minorities, Donald Miller, however the same ethnic minorities must want to be included and have rersponsibilities towards the country they live in – this does not necessarily mean there must be complete assimilation but it also means that due regard for “mainstream” needs to occur. Perhaps the reason why Japan and America have left the war behind is in the fact that one does not interfere with the life of the other?

  8. Another issue not making the news?


  9. Mr. Haris, how would you feel if someone put salt on your fresh wound. Would you consider that sign of friendship, and peaceful coexistence. See if you can get proof from Croatian government is there actually 30% of them living in Vukovar. You would think they know that, and show it publicly. And even if there is 30% of them my first sentence here still applies with normal people. Please read if you didn’t Inavukic reply.

  10. “government ois like a bully in the school yard”? You could just as easily be talking about the USA!

    • Just awful, isn’t it The Conservative Hill Billy, perhaps in US the gov thinks that going to Syria will take peoples mind of that fact? What a mess

      • A huge ugly mess that its just going to get worse…and there its nothing we the people can do about it. Think I will grab some beers and just go fishing..and you are invited 🙂

      • I think people can do much about it if they persist, The Conservative Hill Billy, but generally and in any case a beer is a great idea. Thanks for the invite…. I’ll just mozy on over to my fridge

  11. Вуковар je Хрватска. That small sentence summary all my opinion about this topic.

    “Signage is a problem there but so too is the fact that Vukovar’s school children are educated in separate schools: Serbs go to one school Croats to another, Serb minority, any minority should not only demand rights but also it should exercise responsibility toward the state, Croatia – and somehow we’re yet to see that”

    And, of course, the best way to integrate the serb population of Vukovar and make them to identify with the institutions of Croatia is trash the plaques written in cyrilic. It is quite logic, is not it?

  12. Michael Silovic says:

    Croatians are not like Americans we will not allow our goverment to treat us like sheep like the Americans do. They are pushing us closer and closer to resistance….Vukovar is our sacred village and the goverment agents should not push us any further.The goverment has seen what we the people are capable of and they should respect us because they would not be in power if it were not for the people. Remember the weapons we took from the JNA in Slavonia…..~Za Dom Spremni!~

    • When push comes to shove Michael, we need to defend and assert our rights – like anybody else. Perhaps the Americans need a bit more spirit about loving their own country just as they did during independence fights

  13. Thank You for like !

  14. I have been most unaware of all that you are teaching me through your site. I have just read two posts and have a great deal of catching up to do. Though my heart extends, I fear it is not enough. How the voices of so many go unheard astounds me. deeply moved, Belinda

  15. Hello Ina,
    “Overcoming prejudices and hostilities that have shattered the Balkans” – I wonder if this article may interest you…

  16. Ina and fellow bloggers, the incidents in Vukovar against Croatian sovereignty are all part of a plan by Serbia to destabilize Croatia and rehabilitate Serbia – have a read of a SANU memorandum:
    Also, consider the continued provocations at recent sporting events in Croatia:

    While the Croatian government fiddles, Croatia burns. The war did not end, it continues on different fronts.

  17. This is a strange action by the HR govt. They are still smarting having been smacked by the EU over the Lex Perković debacle and, I guess, don’t want another one by overtly crossing our own law derived from Dayton. However, my peers don’t really care and nor do the Serbs who live near me. That said, I was in Slavonia and drove through Bosnia last week and saw that, no matter what signs are erected, those locals who feel strongly about it will spray paint out the offending sections. In the Republika Srbska the latin script was often vandalised but once you get nearer to Sarajevo, the cyrillic script was spray painted over. I understand (but didn’t ask directly) that people who do this are happy to have dual script signs on the basis that it gives them the opportunity to show graphically how they feel.
    It is clear however, the two camps in Vukovar are as hostile and aggressive to each other as ever, evident by the “mismo u Srbiji” chants at a local Vukovar football (soccer) match recently. That message was clear even to a rabid liberal like me. It may surprise you nationalist types but my attitude to this action is … “stuff your cyrillic signs up your ass”. There! I said it.

    • Pavao, to make things worse regarding Cyrillic in Vukovar, Pavao, while the government shouts it must follow the law, the rule of law, they’re blatantly disregarding the full spirit and letter of that law. I.e. the law clearly says that bilingual signage cannot be erected if it causes unrest, intolerance etc. So in effect, the government if fueling unrest. What will it take for the government to see sense I wonder?

  18. You used the words “sense” and “government” in the same sentence!


  1. […] The Committee or Initiative on the defence of Vukovar has on many an occasion during the past eight or so months emphasised that the issue of bilingual signage in Vukovar is not only an issue of minority rights (in this case Serb minority) as addressed in the Constitution but that the issue has much deeper roots. Indeed, if one pays due attention to the constitutional law on signage one cannot but conclude that it forbids erection of bilingual signs if they cause unrest and expressed intolerance. The people see this, know this and the government and the president of the Republic choose to ignore it. It’s as simple as that and as complicated as that, for, it is in the nature of the people to pursue truth. The truth is on the side of the people protesting the introduction of Cyrillic script on public buildings. […]

  2. […] veterans pursue their rejection of bilingual signage in Vukovar as written in my previous post on the matter,however all their actions and protests have been put on temporary hold in honour of […]

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