Croatia: No-Serbian Cyrillic On Public Buildings Gains Meritorious Momentum

Tomislav Josic,  Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar Photo: Patrik Macek/Pixsell

Tomislav Josic,
Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar
Photo: Patrik Macek/Pixsell

The Croatian parliament had July 15 decided to hand the sensitive matter of whether or not to hold a referendum against the use of the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet on state offices in the city of Vukovar to the Constitutional Court.

Referendum supporters say that Cyrillic symbolically represents the utter terror and the horror inflicted upon innocent Croats in Vukovar as they went about seceding from communist Yugoslavia, seeking through democratic peaceful processes their freedom and democracy. The government (whose political predecessors, although a minority, did not want to secede from communist Yugoslavia) evidently has little or no empathy with the suffering of the Croatian people at the hands of Serb aggressor has after months of the parliamentary committee’s dragging out signature verifications objected to the referendum, calling it uncivilized and in violation of the country’s international obligations. It will now be up to the Constitutional Court to decide.

Vukovar, as the world already knows, is a city devastated to the ground through Serb aggression, ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs, mass murders and mass rapes during the war for Croatian independence in 1991. In November/December 2013 the group of Croatian citizens consisting mainly of war veterans “Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar” after a series of protests against bilingual signs on public buildings in Vukovar, which included the tearing down of these and consequent unrests and arrest as well as violent attacks against the protesters by members of the police, collected over 600,000 signatures for a referendum aiming to raise to 50% (compared with 33% under the current law), the minimum level for minority groups living in a city or a municipality to enjoy the right to bilingualism on public buildings, institutions. The “Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar” group and its many supporters want the city that suffered the most in the war (Vukovar) to be declared a place of special piety.

The Committee’s member and legal adviser, Vlado Iljkic, said last week “with the referendum question we are returning to the standards that were in the Constitutional law regarding minority rights when its application did not create opposition and problems, i.e. it was not detrimental”. He added that minorities realised their rights then based on the Constitutional law based on discretionary powers of local government such as was the case for Czechs in the town of Daruvar and based on international agreements such as for the Italians in Istria.

Expressing fear that pressure had been mounting on the Constitutional Court to declare the referendum question unconstitutional, the Committee for the Defence of Croatian Vukovar leader Tomislav Josic said this week that the referendum question was in line with the constitution and did not encroach on the rights which local Serbs had so far exercised.

If the Constitutional Court finds the referendum question on bilingualism in local communities contrary to the Croatian Constitution, activists who launched the referendum initiative will address the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg, leaders of the “Committee for the Defence of the Croatian Vukovar”, said at a news conference in Vukovar on Thursday 24 July.

The Committee’s leader, Tomislav Josic, explained that in Croatia, ethnic minorities could exercise their rights in compliance with three sets of rules: the constitutional law on minority rights, local government statutes and international treaties.

I expect the Constitutional Court to allow the referendum question, and then let the people of Croatia decide on the matter at the referendum,” Josic said.

Although the Vukovar Committee holds that the survey question was incorrectly formulated, the recent survey (March – May 2014) conducted by the Ivo Pilar Institute shows that a majority of the Croatians would vote against raising the threshold from the current one third requirement to over 50% for enabling minorities to use their language and scrip at public places.
However, when it comes to Vukovar, a marked majority of the respondents, or nearly two thirds (64.4%), are against Cyrillic signs on public institutions in Vukovar.
Also, 38.3% of those polled believe that Vukovar should be permanently exempt from dual-alphabet signs, and 26.1% hold that more time is needed before such a move.

The above Ivo Pilar Institute research clearly demonstrates that people of Croatia are overwhelmingly aware of the need to address Vukovar as the city that is the victim and symbol to be remembered of brutal Serb aggression. It’s a pity that the government doesn’t recognise, or rather – accept, the pulse of the nation it governs. There is absolutely nothing uncivilised about the plights for justice for the victims and the memory humanity owes them regardless of the fact that the Croatian bizarrely out of touch government would like to argue differently. Any international obligations a country “owes” to a civilised world is to uphold the will of the majority of its people while upholding rights of minorities to a degree that does not threaten sovereignty, its sovereign rights and duties to abide by the will of its people and to respect the memory that shapes its nation. Once those aspects are in place everything else can follow, including reconciliation of the past. I trust that the Croatian Constitutional court will reiterate such rights and obligations towards Croatian people and rule the referendum question valid. Indeed, if one digs into the arrangements for ethnic minority rights within leading EU Western European member states one can easily come to the conclusion that newer member states from Eastern and South Eastern Europe are “forced” to adhere to standards regarding minorities the “old” member states do not meet, nor are – to my knowledge – contemplating on meeting. The Ivo Pilar Institute survey on referendum regarding Serbian Cyrillic script in Vukovar has given unquestionable merit to the pursuits for Vukovar’s victims’ justice led by the Committee for the Defence of Croatian Vukovar. It is no longer a matter of the Committee and its supporters but a matter considered worthy across Croatia and this is a most timely message for the Constitutional Court that was founded on the blood of Victims of Vukovar – of Croatia! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Michael Silovic says:

    Vukovar is to Croatia what the Vatican is to Rome.The Serbs deserve nothing and should get nothing. Those criminals walking the streets should be put on a wall of shame.I am concerned of the fact that the Serbian government has been paying Serbs to move back to Croatia and re populate certain areas.

    • My concern, Michael, is in the appearance of those that return, return not as if coming back home, where they used to live but with a political slant where one gets the impression they are returning if they get something in return, as if Croatia owes them rather than returning to help build Croatia most of them took part in destroying.

  2. Isn’t it mind boggling what governments argue over? I know that tradition and ancestorical pride are important in any society, but COME ON! Who’s it gonna hurt!?
    Live together!
    Great info Inavukic! I’m still learning!

    • Thanks, Trey. There are many places in Croatia where living together is no problem, however, the issue of Vukovar is deep and it has to do with unresolved war crimes. Humans will be humans – a victim will seek justice and at least remorse from crimes’ perpetrators, and social, moral and legal norms tows that line as something that needs to be achieved.

  3. I always enjoy your posts and this is one of many that are informative and interesting.
    Thanks for sharing…
    Best regards and wishing you a nice weekend,
    Aquileana 😛

  4. Alija Derzelez says:

    Does any of you know what happened to”Hrvatska Cirilica”.I mean how is it possible everybody forgot about it.

  5. Reblogged this on idealisticrebel.

  6. Every day I learn more about my Croatian heritage. Thank you dear Ina for this gift. Blessings, Barbara

  7. Michael Silovic says:

    Your comment on the political slant is correct. When I was home in June I was surprised to learn that the Serbian government was paying Serbs to move to certain areas and yes it is for political reasons. While I understand those that were born in Croatia deserve the right to return they must do so with knowledge of the fact that they are Croats first not Serbian, respect us and our country as a people and live the way we do under our terms and if not then go back to their own Territory with their own people.I personally will not stand for there nonsense or political games. If they want to be a part of Croatia and be recognized as Serbian and not Croats they can do so when we get all of our land back and acknowledge a greater Croatia and recognize us as a superior people which we proved when we fought their army with basically no weapons. They will not and never should be recognized in Vukovar under any circumstances.Slavonia belongs to Croats and always will……..~Za Dom Spremni!~

  8. In this week the bodies of close to 500 killed Croats and Bosniak civilians killed by Serb troops in the summer of 1992 has been discovered in north east Bosnia including a 5 year old croat boy burned alive with his grand mother never forget the Serb crimes.

  9. Our library has just completed a series on Maori proverbs, most of which emphasize the importance of our connection to our own languages. I know that is not exactly the issue of your post, but it is interesting to see how language, even signs, carry such significance.

    • Thank you Gallivanta, your comment is to the point here – script, signs, language … do evoke emotions particularly as they stir memories which are distressing.

  10. Good morning, Ina !
    Thank you for visiting ! 🙂

  11. Great advancement..

  12. Great advancement.,regards.


  1. […] and their supporters, who represent the victims of Serb mass murders, rapes, destruction say that Cyrillic symbolically represents the utter terror and the horror inflicted upon innocent Croats in V… as they went about seceding from communist Yugoslavia, seeking through democratic peaceful […]

  2. […] and their supporters, who represent the victims of Serb mass murders, rapes, destruction say that Cyrillic symbolically represents the utter terror and the horror inflicted upon innocent Croats in V… as they went about seceding from communist Yugoslavia, seeking through democratic peaceful […]

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