Croatia: Ethnicity Must Not Determine Allegiance

Allegiance to the Croatian Flag

Allegiance to the Croatian Flag

An ethnic minority is in dictionary terms referred to as a group of people of a particular race or nationality living in a country or area where most people are from a different race or nationality.
Allegiance to one’s country to the benefit of that country is called patriotism and it is a positive force that, despite globalisation, still guides our sense of belonging, our immediate “family” for which we look out for in our daily lives. Borders after all, define countries and define allegiance.
The Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, in its chapter on Historical Foundations, explicitly defines who the ethnic minorities are within Croatia’s sovereign borders: “Setting forth from these historical facts and the universally accepted principles governing the contemporary world and the inalienable and indivisible, non-transferable and perpetual right of the Croatian nation to self-determination and state sovereignty, including the inviolable right to secession and association as the fundamental conditions for peace and stability of the international order, the Republic of Croatia is hereby established as the nation state of the Croatian nation and the state of the members of its national minorities: Serbs, Czechs, Slovaks, Italians, Hungarians, Jews, Germans, Austrians, Ukrainians, Rusyns, Bosniaks, Slovenians, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Russians, Bulgarians, Poles, Roma, Romanians, Turks, Vlachs, Albanians and others who are its citizens and who are guaranteed equality with citizens of Croatian nationality and the exercise of their national rights in compliance with the democratic norms of the United Nations and the countries of the free world.”
According to the last census (2011) the population of Croatia is comprised of 7.7% people who identify as belonging to the ethnic minorities (Albanians 17,513 /0.41%, Austrians 297/0.01%, Bosniaks/Muslims 31,479/0.73%, Bulgarians 350/0.01%, Montenegrins 4,517/0.11%, Czechs 9,641/0.22%, Hungarians 14,048/0.33%, Macedonians 4,138/0.10%, Germans 2,965 /0.07%, Polish 672/0.02%, Roma 16,975/0.40%, Romanians 435/0.01%, Russians 1,279/0.03%, Rusyns 1,936/0.05%, Slovaks 4,753/0.11%, Slovenians 10,517/0,25%, Serbs 186,633/4.36%, Italians 17,807/0.42%, Turks 367/0.01%, Ukrainians 1,878 /0.04%), Vlachs 29 (0.00) and Jews 509/0.01%.
With the population growth hovering over 0% or -0.4% (2013) the size of ethnic minorities would not be expected to have increased since 2011, however, resettlement of displaced persons from 1990’s war (Croats and Serbs) may show slight variations to representations either way.
Today, the issue of minority rights in multiethnic societies has grown to be one of the most sensitive issues challenging almost every country. In particular, the challenge from the quest of different ethnic or cultural groups for political relevance is the most noticeable one in all countries where ethnic minorities live. Unlike most countries though, the accommodation of political relevance of specific ethnic minorities in Croatia is reflected in the specified seats for individual or combined ethnic minorities in the Parliament. One can safely say that in Croatia the mechanisms for ensuring that interests of ethnic minorities in creating and passing of mainstream legislation are well represented.

The outcry by Croatian Serbs last week when the President-elect Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic addressed the citizens in her victory speech as “Dear Croatians” and when she said in an interview to Bosnia and Herzegovina TV “The way I see it, Croats are also people of Christian Orthodox religion and people of Serb ethnic background. They are Croats in the sense that they are Croatian citizens,” has once again demonstrated the fact that many Serbs in Croatia do not consider Croatia as their country. It demonstrates the fact that some ethnic minorities in Croatia want to stay separated from the mainstream and therefore continue injecting social unrest in a country that needs unity towards one common goal: a prosperous Croatia. In fact Croatian Serbs, or one of their leaders Milorad Pupovac took offence at being considered as a Croatian in Grabar-Kitarovic speeches, even though he is a Croatian citizen and a member of Parliament representing a part of Croatian Serbian population!
“Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile” is an old idiom that perhaps finds its practical use for abuse here in Croatia. What else could it be with such a reaction to Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic’s statement that to her all citizens of Croatia are Croatians. Indeed, while the more loud ethnic minorities in the developed countries advocate for political relevance with view to protecting their ethnic minority rights in mainstream legislation Croatian Serbs seem still set on being separated from Croatia; the same mentality ruled in early 1990’s when they attacked Croatian independence and secession from communist Yugoslavia. The dream of Greater Serbia one would create by stealing land from sovereign national territory of other people is evidently still strong in Croatian Serbs and can only be neutralised by insisting on unity for and allegiance to Croatia while enjoying citizens’ rights that come with ethnic/cultural definitions and heritage.
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic is not the first president-elect or the first leader of a country to refer to all citizens of the country by the name of the country, but, she is perhaps one of the first to “cop the flak” because of it and that is because of unpatriotic, pro-communist, elements that arise from ethnic minorities who did not and do not want an independent and unified Croatia.
France is considered a country where the existence ethnic minorities is substantial and yet President François Hollande in his inauguration speech 15 May 2012 emphasised: “…I send the French people a message of confidence”!
Likewise, President Barrack Obama addressed the people of the U.S. in his second term inauguration speech 2 January 2013. “…My fellow Americans…”!
I could go on and on with similar examples and I know: any ethnic conflict in Croatia is caused by those who want to reap the benefits of being Croatian citizens but want no part in the responsibility to create and live a unity towards the benefit of Croatia. While such regretful state of affairs exists Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic is completely justified in insisting on treating all Croatian citizens as equal Croatians! That is the job a president must do and must insist upon the respect and allegiance of all to the one flag!
And to go back to the Croatian Constitution, people should be declaring their Croatian patriotism regardless of their ethnic backgrounds. Indeed given that the Constitution of independent Croatia arose after a 94% vote to secede from communist Yugoslavia the people of Croatia have a responsibility to practice allegiance to Croatia. The diversity of their ethnic backgrounds should not get in the way of being Croatians. The ethnic diversity of Croatia’s population, no matter how low nationally or relatively high in some areas is nothing new, but it is an important aspect of post-Yugoslavia nation building and the President-elect Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic demonstrates that she is well aware of the fact and ready and able to tackle it in a way other presidents since Franjo Tudjman have ignored. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A.,M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. It would be absurd for the Australian PM to address us as anything other than “my fellow Australians”; in fact, it would insult the people of so many ethnicities if he did not regard them as Australians. It is not only natural for the Croatian President to address her “fellow Croatians” but right. To do otherwise would either suggest the Croatian state does not exist or that it is merely a coalition of groups rather than a single nation. And I would also suggest that anyone who objects to being called a Croatian shouldn’t hold Croatian citizenship.

  2. ‘I’m very clear about who the boss is, about who I answer to and it is the British people. They want this, they’re not being unreasonable about it. I will fix it,’ – David Cameron, October 2014

  3. Roscoe Mancini says:

    Such Croatian Serbs are not saying that just because they think that if they don’t complain they would be “croationized”, because they will not be, they remain what they are: Serb by ethnicity or nationality that comes from ethnic genes…this is pure and simple unacceptable behavior…If you live in Croatia, you respect Croatia and accept to be a part of it, a part for it. I hear one of the parliamentary reps Furio Radin for ethnic Italians in Croatia is also uncomfortable with being called “a Croatian” – oh Lord – these persons have been in that parliament since its beginnings in early 1990’s – time to inject some fresh and young blood in there

    • Yes, Roscoe, have read something along those lines about Radin. Both Radin and Pupovac seem to have spent their capabilities in representing citizens of Croatia in Croatia. Worn out and should be let out to pasture.

  4. The Serb parliamentary representative Pupovac has the hide to suggest that referring to all Croatian citizens as “Croatians” is more like the WWII Ustashe move than anything else. How absolutely awful and unacceptable. He needs to be ignored by the media. Well that sorry excuse for a Croatian Serb thrives on historic scandals and works hard at giving them life – do not let him, oust him out of active politics and charge him with seriously disturbing the peace, at least.

    • The sadness is, Pacific, that some Croatian media love that stuff, love sensationalism and scandalous behaviour. There is very little healthy analytical journalism in Croatia – if there was we would seen commentaries left right and centre regarding Pupovac and his hateful tantrums.

  5. An issue well addressed. Thanks Ina. I would just have added that it is absurd that in our constitution we have that article regarding minorities and their rights. At one time I looked up several western based constitutions, like that of America and Australia and Canada and the UK, and no mention of rights of minorities. I particularly like the pledge of alliance in America “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” and their Bill of Rights that guarantee a number of personal freedoms. I have bought this up several times on my facebook page … hrvatskapovratinica. We need a complete overhaul of our constitution, starting with a clean white slate, and then follow the examples of nations that draw in migrants from all countries … as there is no denying the facts that after several generations just like with our dijaspora 2+ generations around the world become Americans, Australians, etc. Therefore we need to change our immigration laws, advertising in countries from where we want immigrants, just as Australia does … the benefits of living in Croatia … (change laws if necessary to create benefits) … and lets populate this country …. as President of the Association of Croatian Returnees and Immigrants … I am seeing children of people from other countries not of ex-Yug …. become Croatian …. sure now they are British Croatians or German Croatians, but a couple of generations down the road they will be Croatians and will feel like Croatians, loving this land as we do. Lets build this country as Florida populated itself with people from the north and became a pensioners paradise in the 20’s … I believe we can do it. Lets work on doubling our population and growing economically. Remember, pensioners from other countries can spread their pensions further here (at least for a while) and they spend, they take away nothing …. their families spend coming here to see their parents, their parents having more buying power travel. I look forward to you Ina helping to promote the views that we can make Croatia a better country for our children. Naturally, in Croatia, one language is the official language, our culture and positive aspects of our culture must be preserved and this requires funding, promotion and continual reinforcement.

    • True, Jadranka, most Constitutions do not specify who the ethnic minorities are and there’s an expectation that all will be true and honour the country where they live first and foremost. Independent Croatia inherited ethnic minorities as citizens and therefore, I understand the need to reflect that in the Constitution. It is the duty of the state to ensure rights and responsibilities and in fact insist upon those. Interesting ideas for populating Croatia and, yes, there’s much work to be done to make it happen – to me lustration is number one priority, getting rid of the remnants of communist mindset and corruption…Croats living in diaspora are used to law and order that is maintained with firm resolve in the mainstream…Croatia although welcoming country (for tourists etc) still needs much work on its understanding and accepting the diaspora as its part, without which it cannot prosper. Hence, my pursuits via blog and other avenues

  6. New Croatian President Yolanda Grabar-Kitarovic has been “making good” since I came to know her while she was in my Los Alamos High School elective on constitutionalism.

    She was mature and “learned” well beyond her years.

    I kept one of her beautiful essays, and read it when I feel despair over how equality and a general understanding of our constitutional system and the promises of the Declaration of Independence have not only declined, but have almost ceased to exist.

    She wrote, “We hold these Truths to be self -evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable Rights …. .” She then went on to write, ” I believe these to be some of the most beautiful words ever written.”

    And so they are!

    I worried about her when Yugoslavia broke apart in war. But she survived and will be a great president of Croatia. Thank you for the article.

  7. It never ceases to amaze me when people find things that are not there. If he doesn’t want to be referred to as Croatian, then he should denounce his citizenship… some people just want to find excuses for cheap shots at accusing others for being racist or whatever. It’s pretty obvious that they are the ones who have the problem not those they are accusing. The guy’s a loser, like so many others before him and many more after, I’m sure. There are two many people out there walking with a chip on their shoulder just itching for something they can use to start trouble. It’s sickening.

  8. Stipo Blazevic says:

    Living & working in Australia, I would despise being treated differently to everybody else. Aussies love the idea of a fair go. They also say fit in or f$&k off.

  9. I am Scots, and I am English, and I am British. I love all three identities.

  10. When my Prime Minister speaks he says ‘my fellow Canadians,’ as he should. He doesn’t list off the hundreds of ethnic groups in Canada. It’s an absurdity. The same applies to other civilized parts of the free world. Sadly, this ‘special status’ nonsense in Croatia seems to be coming from people intent on expanding their Greater Serbian idea.

    • Yes Erica – right on all points. But maintaining a strong love and dedication for Croatia will ensure that Greater Serbia does not get a look-in upon Croatian soil ever again.

  11. Thank you so much for your visit to my blog and for the like. God’s blessings to you in the name of Jesus Christ.

  12. Here in America, the President refers to the people here as American citizens. Basically, if you are not a citizen you often will not be effected at what is coming next. We use Asian American and African American etc. to refer to minorities. There are now towns where Caucasians are the minority. What is important is that we are Americans. If people don’t want to be called American then they shouldn’t be here. Croatia, while having many minorities, is indeed a sovereign state and I can think of no reason why people should object to being called Croatians. I am proud of my immigrant background on both sides of the family. I am Croatian, English and Roma. I am an American. Your new President was right in my mind. Hugs, Barbara

  13. Zoran Nosic says:

    Ina this is nothing new in the tragic history that is Croatian. We have had a “5th column” throughout the 19th and 20th century that have continued to own Croatian politics and has wedged itself into the mainstream while serving outside interests at the expense of Croatia.

    It is with renewed hope that I watch KGK and that she will hold true to her position and insist on a renewed union of all Croatian citizens. The minority political status is unique to Croatia but we need to remember that it was imposed on us during the peace process. We all know how cowardly and hypocritical it was of the Western countries to “insist” on codifying this massive political burden as part of the “stick” to our carrot of political recognition.

    Don’t be surprised at the possibility of constitutional reform that would diminish the number of seats allotted to minorities, much like the number of seats for the Diaspora was reduced from 5 to 3 by the previous proto-communist governments.

    • Yes the “inheritance” together with foreign pressure has much to answer for but if fuller unity and reconciliation comes we have nothing to fear. Insist on unity and responsibility as well as rights

  14. Reblogged this on momentarylapseofsanity.

  15. …these “Serbs” in Croatia are of old “VLAH,GYPSY stock” and are NOT real Serbians anyway! Some history….in 925 A.D., brain dead King Tomislav and the equally intelligent Catholic clergy, let these janissaries (janjicari) into Croatian lands, which were over 90% Roman catholic at the time! When the Croatian kingdom collapsed in the early Middle Ages, the Croats had no military, no government and more of these state-less people wandered into Croatian lands! They were of the orthodox religion, but they were NOT serbians! As time went by, the Serbian monarchy in Belgrade “serbianized” these uncivilized people and looked upon them as a Greater Serbian expansionist tool!
    When the Croatian kingdom joined into the Hungarian, and latter the Austro-Hungarian crown, in Vienna and Budapest, the idiotic monarchs of these two countries let more of the “serbianized” VLAHS into Croatian lands, so as, to guard against the Turkish armies and to STIFLE the Croatian independence movement!
    Backtrack to 925 A.D, …the Pope promised to PROTECT Croatia in case of attack, but it should promise NEVER to attack any attacker but to notify the Vatican, and HOLY DADDY would send armies to protect Croatia!!!! ….LIES, LIES & STATISTICS!! The Pope NEVER sent armies to protect Croatia!
    When you look objectively, NO people suffered more who adopted the Roman Catholic church then the Croatians! ….and for what!…It’s too bad that the Roman emperors didn’t destroy the Catholic (only one Christian church at the time) churches before they displaced the Roman pagan religions! Christianity is a curse on Western civilization and it should have been eradicated!
    “What RICHES hath not the FABLE of the Christ brought us?”
    Pope Leo X (1473-1521)

    • Well, Tempus Fugit, history is the culprit of many troubles of today, I don;’t pretend I know it all but pretty much

    • therealamericro says:

      Tempus Fugit:

      Serbs did not arrive in what is no Croatia-proper until 1517 (it was the Ottoman advance – and their service as Ottoman soldiers, that spilled them across the Drina into Hercegbosna – fleeing Ottoman occupation at the behest of Austria who wanted to weaken Croatia from within by importing foreigners and granting them special rights in return for their loyalty. Which means that, despite their rhetoric to the contrary, Serbs, and Croatian Serbs in particular, had the tightest and shortest lederhosen in the whole AH empire.

      Vlachs were here from day one. The problem was that some bought into the Svetosavlje conversions under the false premise that if one was Orthodox south of Austria and north of Greece, one was Serbian in the 1700s and 1800s.

      Second, the Catholic Church is what kept the Croatian fire alive during ten centuries of foreign occupation, terror, robbery, misrule, dictatorship, dictates, and in the case of both Yugoslavia’s, WWII and the Ottoman Empire, genocide and (or) culturocide of Croats and Croatian national identity and history.

      There is a reason why there was, and remains, a concentrated effort to defame soon to be Saint Cardinal Stepinac decades after his passing – to tie the Church with “radical nationalism.”

      That certain Popes had Italian nationalist and not universal Catholic agendas is on them as individuals. We cannot forget all that Pope John Paul II, Ratzinger and even Francis have done for Croatia and Croatia’s image. Were it not for the Vatican’s stance in 1990 / 1991, Croatia would have never been recognized.

  16. In Belgium, there are 3 communities. We have 3 different languages in Belgium. Flanders, where we speak Dutch. La WalIonie, where they speak French & The German small part, where they speak German.

    I am a Flandrien, live in Flanders but I feel a Belgian! A political party wants to separate Belgium in these 3 parts.

    • Political parties keep pushing agendas that will keep them in public arena, Sophie – but people are all one, one country and that is unity no matter what the differences are between different communities. Good on you.

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