Croatia: Cyrillic Tampers With Our Hearts – Croats Announce Referendum On Bilingual Ethnic Minority Rights

Public Discussion on Cyrillic in Vukovar Zagreb, Croatia, 24 October 2013 Photo: Sanjin Strukin/Pixsell

Public Discussion on Cyrillic in Vukovar
Zagreb, Croatia, 24 October 2013
Photo: Sanjin Strukin/Pixsell

The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.” Article 21 (3) – Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

And now if we turn the spotlight upon Croatia’s transition into democracy (from totalitarian regime of communism) that still lasts, without a doubt, those who uphold human rights know that transition must engage the design and implementation of inclusive national consultations on transitional justice mechanisms; support the establishment of truth-seeking processes, judicial accountability mechanisms, and reparations programs; and enhance institutional reform.

The issue of introducing Cyrillic script (Serbian) alongside the Latin one (Croatian) in Vukovar has attracted a plethora of reactions worldwide; praise and recriminations! The praises went and go towards expressing agreement with the human rights of victims to be afforded due respect and consideration while at the same time maintaining the focus on the need to prosecute war criminals. The recriminations went and go towards rehashing unassociated events of WWII instead of rehashing the events of Croatia’s Homeland War, that are associated. But, of course, if the latter applied then the critics of the protests against Cyrillic in Vukovar would not have a leg to stand on.

Another bilingual sign was torn down this week in Vukovar, reported 22 October Croatian TV HRT.

Problems with bilingual signs continue in the eastern town of Vukovar and although the world wouldn’t know it if it depended on mainstream media, this issue has escalated to a national issue of profound and widespread discontent that won’t go away any time soon. On Tuesday new dual-alphabet Latin and Serbian Cyrillic signs were erected on the Croatian Employment Institute in Vukovar, replacing the ones that had been torn down by protestors twice previously only to be torn down overnight.  The police are investigating as to who was behind this latest incident.

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic met last week in Vukovar with those who in past months led the protests against the introduction of Serbian Cyrillic script there. At the meeting it was agreed that the heavy police presence guarding the controversial signs would be withdrawn. Another meeting is scheduled for Zagreb.

The Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar said that it had nothing to do with the latest incident and announced that they’ll be coming to the scheduled meeting with the Prime Minister next Monday with an ultimatum:

If the bilingual signs are not taken down they would cease collaborating with the government and press forth with collecting citizens’ signatures for a referendum in which people would record their views as to the following three questions:
1.    Do they agree that the threshold for the introduction of bilingualism be raised to 50% of ethnic minority population?
2.    Do they agree that Vukovar be declared as a place of special piety?
3.    Do they agree that persons who had participated in the aggression be banned from working in public service?

In its news program 24 October HRT reports that another bilingual sign had been torn down overnight, the one which was nailed three meters high on the criminal court building in Vukovar last Monday!  But this wasn’t all; another bilingual sign was torn down in the afternoon and that was the one that replaced the one torn down a couple of days ago (beginning of this article) and replaced the same day.

HRT also reported that the Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar has commenced public discussions on bilingual signs and on the initiative that Vukovar be declared a place of special piety. The first public forum was held Thursday 24 October in European House Zagreb and it heard that the Committee seeks a moratorium on the constitutional law on ethnic minority rights until the next census and that a provision be introduced into the constitutional law which would require at least 50% representation of ethnic minority in a population before bilingual signs could be introduced.

Should the government not satisfy these demands, the Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar  and its supporters would do everything in their power for Vukovar to become an unwelcoming city for the government and its representatives. The public Forum also announced the possibility of a referendum (as set out above).

Dr Vesna Bosanac, who headed the Vukovar hospital during its destruction and massacres by Serb aggressor in 1991, said at the public discussion forum: “Cyrillic bothers us because they (Serbs) were celebrating Cyrillic while murdering us … we all suffer from PTS (post traumatic stress) and this Cyrillic is the trigger that’s pushing us backwards. Regardless of the fact that the Prime Minister and his followers explain that all us Croats are above all that and that in essence the Cyrillic is not important at all, to us it is important. To us – it is very important, it tampers with our hearts …”.

Dr. Vesna Bosanac, Association of Croatian doctors volunteers 1990 - 1991 Photo: Screenshot HRT TV News 24. 10. 2013

Dr. Vesna Bosanac, Association of Croatian
doctors volunteers 1990 – 1991
Photo: Screenshot HRT TV News 24. 10. 2013

Croatian veteran Tomislav Josic, president of the Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar, emphasised at the public forum that nobody has yet been made to answer for the excessive shelling and bombing of Vukovar and that the Committee is fighting against the introduction of bilingual signs because the census figures upon which the erection of the same is based, are unreliable.

He further said “war criminals walk freely through Vukovar and have not been prosecuted. 750 were murdered at Velepromet concentration camp and nobody has been made to answer for that … It’s said in our country that everything is according to law. Privatisation was also implemented according to law. I would like to see who wrote those laws. Others should have initiated public discussion, create forums and then pass laws.”

Tomislav Josic, President of Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar Photo: Screenshot HRT TV news 24.10.2013

Tomislav Josic, President of
Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar
Photo: Screenshot HRT TV news 24.10.2013

Indeed, Vukovar is a horribly wounded city. And the government is not listening or seeing.

One gets the unsettling feeling that the government holds the view that reconciliation between Croats and Serbs in the region can be achieved via force – turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to the suffering of victims and the need to have suspected war criminals processed.  Prime Minister and all the ministers keep telling us that the law must be adhered to but fail miserably at acknowledging the fact that the same law allows for discretionary powers if applying that law causes unrest and controversies, to put it plainly.

Furthermore, the Croatian government seems to act as if laws of the country are not the patch it is supposed to work in; that is, as if it has nothing to do with the government, that someone else passed that law and it must adhere to it!

What a tragic stand for a government to stick to! Governments exist to change, amend existing laws and bring in new ones if people circumstances demand or require that. That is the beauty of democracy and an absolute necessity with a transitional democracy.  Regretfully, both the full and the transitional democracy in Croatia have quite a stretch to run under such incompetent governance. But, of course, it may not be incompetence of the government we’re talking about here at all – it could well be that harsh politics are at play. And the harsh politics that come to mind are those that seek to equate the victim with the aggressor and those that still believe in totalitarianism!

Such being the case, the public discussions initiated by the Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar can only be applauded – loudly! For here, perhaps for the first time in the history of Croatian democracy (since 1991) we have people telling the government in no uncertain terms they don’t just want the laws changed but that they want to have a say in the writing/composing text of laws!

Vukovar is indeed a place of special piety and it is, as of this week, a place for which the people – not the government – have spoken firmly for democracy and it’s legislation pathway!   Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Related Recent Posts:
Croatia: Cyrillic In Vukovar Reveals Governmental Discord With Democracy

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


  1. I would be in favour of dual-alphabet signs. Such signs are not for the Serbian politicians or generals at the time of the war, but for the ordinary Vukovar citizens now who happen to prefer Cyrillic. I would want them to feel they were an equal part of society in Vukovar, not second-class citizens.

    • Much of the problem Clare Flourish is in the fact it was actually the ordinary citizens of Vukovar, of Serb extraction, who formed the rebels forces and went on a murderous rampage against their neighbours, Croats, in the beginning of the war and then their forces were strengthened by political forces if you will, the Belgrade based and led Yugoslav Army. I can understand your reasoning and certainly no one agrees with the concept of being a second rate citizen. The other side of that coin is that Croat victims are in fact through this ordeal treated as second rate citizens because much of war crimes committed in Vukovar have not been processed, rapists walk the streets – and they are ordinary citizens in most case etc. There have been several towns in Croatia where bilingual signs have existed for several years without incidents or unrest… many Serbs who live in Vukovar do not care either way as reported by media…but they are the ones who did not join the rebels to fight against Croatian peoples’ wish to secede from Yugoslavia.

    • Clare
      Why not put German in any of the occupied countries of WW2? There are German minorities all over Europe. It’s equally nonsensical.

      • Ethnic Germans had lived in the Sudetenland since the 14th century. They were expelled in 1945. Had they not been, now, why not have German language signs?

        I would like English as well as French signs in Montreal. The Anglophones have been there a long time.

      • Know what you mean Clare. In Croatia, in Istria, bilingual signs etc (Croatian and Italian) have been in use for decades, no problem. When it comes to Vukovar and the Cyrillic – the horrible wounds of war are still raw and as victims there say, Cyrillic in itself will not let the wounds heal…laws of the country need to be sensitive to these real issues if reconciliation is at all to be achieved in the long run.

  2. The responsibility of every government is to amend laws that affect a nation and that do not reflect the needs of most people, or to create new ones where the need is evident among the people. The responsibility of the government is not to pass laws without those laws in their draft form being discussed within the public and submissions from the public and stakeholders invited. It is a very important issue brought up in that public meeting organized by the committee for the defense of Croatian Vukovar. It is all the more important because it demonstrates that such important part of legislature has been ignored in Croatia to a large extent. Bravo Croatian people!

    • That is the democracy the democratic world has known for a long time Marko L. and it’s good to see that Croats want it like that too. Heck, they deserve it.

  3. It’s a sad reality to watch this government staging and “cat-and-mouse” game with its people who have suffered so much and have not healed. People tear down the signs, government puts them up again, people tear it down, government puts it up again … who will win? The Croatian people of course!

    • Yes Zed T. – it’s incredulous! Horrible way to live when the ones that have the responsibility in ensuring peace among people actually aggravate unrest

  4. therealamericro says:

    Milanka Opacic, a Croatian Serb who / who’s Serbian bretheren in her original constituency (Gorski Kotar) mostly did not join Milosevic and Serbia’s genocidal aggression along with the numerous Croatian Serb Quislings under the leader of the genocidal maniacs Martic, Babic and the bearded, choleric Psychiatrist that was in desperate need of a Psychiatrist, called a spade a spade on the topic and herself admitted that the problem is not Cyrillic itself, but that the Serb community in Vukovar has never taken any step towards reconciliation, the most important being the, even if silent / anonymous, naming of the locations of the individual and mass graves of over 1,000 tortured and executed Croat and non-Serb civilians and POWs alike from 1991:

    Tolerance is a two-way street. Croatia has to date bent over backwards to accommodate Croatian Serbs who supported Milosevic’s genocidal orgy in Croatia.

    Not to even mention that the census figures are false as a very large minority, if not majority, of Vukovar Serbs on the census don’t live, work in, pay taxes in or keep up their apartments and homes in Vukovar as they mostly live in Vojvodina, Belgrade and RS, and come to Vukovar only on holidays and for voting and the census.

    The Vukovar Cyrillic sign debacle was a ham-fisted, sinister spin attempt by the ruling incompetent government to shift the public’s attention from their treasonous defense of the Communist-era state terror apparatus and its one-time head in Croatia, Josip Perkovic.

    Cyrillic signs in Vukovar was a horse and pony show to disrupt the slow reconciliation process in Vukovar and raise tensions and portray themselves as the tolerant “peacemakers” to try and spare their image in W Europe, particularly Germany, for their shameless defense of a mass murder mastermind.

    • So well put therealamericro and yes the census figures upon which the raising of bilingual signs in Vukovar was implemented are by all indications horribly wrong. Be that as it may, Croats of Vukovar have solid grounds for pursuing their plight of having Vukovar free of Cyrillic signs. And as for the government’s spin to shift attention from the real issues the people need to keep an eye on what its doing regarding the lawsuit against Serbia for genocide these days. Croatian people must not allow the withdrawal of lawsuit because it is their lawsuit not the government’s and such lawsuit would reveal the truth, whatever that turns out to be.

  5. And wouldn’t you know it: the pro-communist propaganda including Serbia’s is now saying that anti-Cyrillic sentiments in Croatia date back to WWII and say the Ustashe regime banned the Cyrillic script too. What chance has humanity got with these insidious nasty players! None! They want at all costs the world to brush aside the horrid fact of Serb aggression, murder, plunder, rape, destruction. God, please watch over the people of Vukovar for that city is truly a place of special piety.

    • Yes Wilkinson I noticed that too, of course Serbia’s media outlets happily promote such lunacy – it goes towards their efforts in justifying the unjustifiable: crimes committed by Serbs. So i trust the world will see these pathetic outbursts for what they truly are: pure evil.

  6. Don’t give up, Vukovar! You have earned your rights through brutal death and rivers of spilled innocent blood! Don’t give an inch, tear all the signs down and force the war criminals to heel and submit to their guilt.

  7. Vladimir Orsag says:

    Doesn’t surprise me at all the current situation in Vukovar.. A former Yugoslav ambassador in Australia, Alexander Sokorac tried hard to convince general public in Australia that Yugoslavs were speaking, Serbo-Croatian. Fortunately, NSW Minister for Immigration decided to visit Yugoslavia in order to distinguish the facts from fiction. On his return to Australia he ordered his department to replace old leaflets with a new one by a separate languages. And guess what happen. The Serbian minority in Australia insisted on listing Serbian before Croatian just because in their language it start with letter C. However, linguists experts adopted a Latin reference with a letter S.
    Could you imagine how Australia would look like if each ethnic minority insist on having names in their own languages. We adopted Australia as our home and respecting its laws. Anything else is abuse of democracy, which many communists in Vukovar are translating in Tito’s fashion. Therefore, Ms C. Flourish’s opinion demonstrate how naive she really is.

    • Thank you Vladimir Orsag for your comment and it’s most interesting to learn about that example with Serb-Croatian language. Indeed one can still find some individuals even in media using that name for a language that doesn’t exist and has not existed for decades and decades – it was invented in the first place by pro-Serb political agenda. As to C. Flourish I do not believe she is naive, on the contrary she voices opinions of many but the reality is that matters are not simple for Vukovar, or Croatia for that matter because Cyrillic is the language of brutal aggressor and among that aggressor were and are ordinary citizens as well as politicians. All over the world we see monuments for victims of horrible crimes and as far as I am concerned Vukovar IS a monument and as such it should not be contaminated by the script of the aggressor on public buildings etc. Having said that, Serbs in Vukovar do enjoy freedom, which is a good thing. There are many towns and cities in UK, USA, France, Holland etc that have high percentages of immigrants from a particular ethnic group and one does not see bilingual, trilingual etc signs being erected in them…citizens rights to their language can be expressed via translations of important brochures, fact sheets etc about government services and Australia is certainly a country where such access is widespread and to be applauded, but Australia remains Australia

  8. Croamzgrb says:

    Yes, it is appalling that there are still some countries’ politicians
    and press bringing up WWII Croatia’s Nazi-collaborating puppet
    regime (for which the people never voted) that committed war crimes against Serbs. Nothing is being mentioned though, that the communist partisans acted just as viciously – and most important – the communists, upon winning, killed not only Croats they deemed guilty, but during and after the war killed hundreds of thousands (possibly one million) of innocent Croatians just for being Croatians. This number of Croatian victims far surpasses any Serbs the Ustasha had killed. So any talk of the recent war atrocities by the Serbs as being revenge for WWII is obnoxious!
    Obviously, bringing up WWII is just a Serb propaganda ploy to keep the Croatian nation in the eyes of the world as genetically evil.
    These pro-Serb Governments and Press should take the blinders off their eyes and finally see the truth about Serbia: its mass destruction, massacres and all evils of war the Serbs perpetrated with the help and might of the Yugoslav army against defenseless Croatia between 1991-1995.

    • Yes the propaganda is so transparent and evil, Croamzgrb. But we still must keep pointing to that fact otherwise some might think it’s acceptable

  9. Brilliant post.Croatia is taking its rightful place in EU.Thank you for liking my recent post.Respectfully jalal Michael Sabbagh

  10. Ina
    Napisi nesto o partizanki Jovanki koja je ovi dana krepala i koliko su ona i muz zlo napravili u nas. Jedna obicna cobanka ‘prva zena’ Juge. Koja gluposti! Koja sramota! A New York Times, BBC i ostale nepismene budale pisu iste bajke o njima. Kad ce ta istina o njima izaci? A na njen sprovod crvene ‘zvezda’ na okupu — samo u bivsoj Jugi, zaostaloj Kubi, u gulagu Sjevenoj Koreji i bezBoznoj Kini se slavi komunizam koja je miljione ubijalo, popljuvalo Boga, i srusio dusu covjeka. Sram onima koji nose crvenu zvijezdu. Nije uopce drugacije nego Nacisticki simbol.
    Pozdrav Ina.

    TRANSLATION: Ina, Write something about partisan Jovanka who died recently and how much evil she and her husband had done in our country. What stupidity! What shame! New York Times, BBC and other illiterate fools write same fairytales about them. When will the truth about them come out? At her funeral red star gathered — only in former Yugoslavia, backward Cuba, in Gulag North Korea and Godless China celebrate communism that murdered millions, spat on God, and destroyed the human soul. Those wearing the red star should be ashamed. It’s not different to the Nazi symbol.

    • Thank you Veronika, I have not written anything about the death of Tito’s wife, Jovanka Broz, because to me she stood by him while he ordered mass murders and assassinations of innocent people, of Croatian patriots. One cannot say that Jovanka did not know about communist partisan murder and exterminations, that she was only Tito’s wife etc because she was a partisan and communist and knew it. I have written several articles on Communist crimes and I intend to pursue justice for its victims. Thank you on your comment.

  11. Hello Ina. You must be my most esteemed follower on my little blog. I am aware of no other Medal of Honor winners about the place.

    I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award.

    Keep up the good work.

  12. Vladimir Orsag says:

    Hvala Vam Veronika. Istog smo misljenja o Jovanki. Vi niste sami. Tibor Cseres published in 1993 knjigu pod naslovom u prijevodu, Titovi zlocini u Vojvodini 1944-1945. Ako zelite procitati recenziju njegove knjige na hrvatskom javite Ini Vasu email adresu i ja cu Vam poslati. Kada bi procitali moje moderno povijesni roman, Balkanska Urota onda bi Vam bilo jasno da su Josip Broz i Tito dva razlicita covjeka. Postoji nepobitni dokaz kojega sakrivaju sluzbenici obavjestajnih sluzbi Istoka i Zapada jer je Tito bio arhitekt (1948) Treceg Bloka – poznatog paklenog plana Adama Weishupta (1776).

    • Translation of comment by Vladimir Orsag: Thank you Veronika. We think alike about Jovanka. You are not alone. Tibor Cseres published in 1993 a book titled Tito’s crimes in Vojvodina 1944-1945. If you want to read a review of his book in the Croatian langugage send Ina your email address and I will send it to you. If you read my modern history novel, the Balkan Conspiracy it would become clear to you that Tito Broz and Tito were two different men. There’s irrefutable evidence, which is kept hidden by both Eastern and Western intelligence services because Tito was the architect (1948) of the Third Block – of the known hellish plan of Adam Weishupt (1776).

  13. What an excellent and surprising article!

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