Croatia: Still Bypassing Diaspora In Correcting Mistakes Of Communism



In late 1980’s and early 1990’s it was the conservative, centre-right political ideology that gathered 94% of Croatia’s voters behind Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ to vote for and fight for Croatia’s secession from communist Yugoslavia and Croatia’s independence as sovereign and democratic state. Under the leadership of its first president, Franjo Tudjman, Croatia was set on a path that would see the shedding from all aspects of public life and administration of remnants of communist habits and detrimental processes. Tudjman’s speeches contained recipes for Croatia to develop and grow into a democracy including using foreign consultants from developed democracies, training Croatian leaders political and business in leading the changes that had to occur if Croatia was truly to move away from communist regime of Yugoslavia, etc. But Tudjman died just a year after the final piece of Croatia’s sovereign territory occupied by Serb aggressor was re-integrated into Croatia. Tudjman’s HDZ lost government as well a couple of months after his death, much so due to the communist lobby that had become strong with Stjepan Mesic’s leadership and public lobby. In early 2000 the League of Communists/known as Social Democrats by then won government and Stjepan Mesic became the president. Of course, any plans to shed communist Yugoslavia from Croatia’s public administration and government initiatives disappeared into the dark of night.

Every time general elections came around after that there have been high voter expectations and conservative election candidates’ promises that an incoming conservative government if elected would deal decisively in stemming out the remnants of communism that stifle progress both economic, social as fit in a well-functioning democracy. Dealing with communist crimes and putting lustration in place were among the formally and informally bandied ways of cleansing Croatia’s democratic future from past communist habits and processes and so too were legislative changes needed to accommodate progress and a vibrant, entrepreneurial, economically viable and prosperous Croatia. Ivo Sanaders’ HDZ government (December 2003 to January 2008), whose leader ended up in courts for corruption, and that of Jadranka Kosor’s (July 2009 to December 2011) made no strong moves in this direction and, indeed, they continued with the alienation of the Croatian diaspora (that amazing resource of positive support Croatia had harnessed in the 1990’s and without which Croatian independence would simply not have been achieved) started in 2000 by Stjepan Mesic and Ivica Racan’s Social Democrat/Communist League prior government. Then came the Zoran Milanovic Social democrat/Communist League led government in late 2011 to January 2016 and it, of course, was not in the business of shedding from Croatia the ideals of communist Yugoslavia it still held close to its heart. To be fair though, there were certain legislative changes that needed to be brought in during this mandate as essential part of the path to EU membership, however, even these changes of legislative nature did not change the hearts of former communists – Croatia was and is still riddled with red tape and behaviours at public administration levels that, in essence, stifle progress and democracy. Zoran Milanovic’s government coincided with communist Ivo Josipovic’s presidency, who won office after Stjepan Mesic held two mandates – so conveniently positioned to evade the necessary changes away from communist past. Centre-right aligned president of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic was inaugurated in February 2015 and she brought with her an apparent wealth of experience and democratic wisdom from having studied and worked abroad for many years. Then came the new government in Croatia in January 2016, mainly consisting of conservative centre-right HDZ but in coalition with MOST independent list with prime minister Tihomir Oreskovic as the leader alighned with no political party but, like Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, bringing in a wealth of corporate, business and entrepreneurial knowhow picked-up through working abroad in the “real and competitive business world” of the world.

The 2016 new government was ushered in with high expectations from the public for tackling the remnants of communism that stifle democratic progress, healthy public dialogues and economic development. Lustration, condemnation of communist crimes, legislative and procedural changes to aid and ease the process of investments and economic growth, tapping into the potential and significantly positive knowledge, economic and demographic resources that lie with the diaspora are just some examples of the plethora of measures popularly thought of as necessary to carry Croatia into the originally drawn plans for democracy, freedom and prosperity. But the evidently desired progress in moving away from communist habits is not yet visible to the originally desired degree and constant suspicions as to the democratic intentions of some politicians of note keep reverberating in Croatia’s public life. As to harnessing the resources from the diaspora for the betterment of Croatia, for movement far away from communist tracks, nothing solid or reassuring is seen on the horizon: just lots of talk from politicians and leaders but little if any right action.

Slobodna Dalmacija’s journalist, Tihomir Dujmovic, has recently in his article “America” addressed so eloquently and so clearly the detrimental, stifling effects of communism in Croatia.


“…I have roamed across America…listened to the destinies of hundreds of displaced Croats. Hundreds of sad destinies caused by communist sadism, which forced thousands of Croats to establish their homes far away from their beloved country,” writes Dujmovic and continues: “As far as possible away from Tito’s terror! …When I watch our people in America, when I compare them in their past years to us and when I watch our former poor that have regularly achieved a decent life living abroad, a person cannot but curse communism … It is here (in America) that we can truly see what Tito had done to us, it’s here that you can see in what misery and poverty our parents lived at home (in Croatia) and we with them, it’s from here that you can truly see the level to which the (communist) system had destroyed us…In that sense, today as a state we are really not doing anything else except correcting the mistakes that communism brought us.

In the first instance, the communist mentality that is not being extinguished…for example look the Cadastre registries…they (communists) took your land, invented the Cadastre and entered their names into the land register! We have not to this day solved this question. And there is a whole sea of similar topics.

When you listen to our people living abroad and when you listen to their counterparts in Croatia the first thing you see is a mound of zombies in the homeland whose every business enterprise has been nailed down with a hammer. In Cleveland I met Ivan Katic who has been living there for 40 years, he started without a single dollar in his pocket and without high diplomas, but his business spirit is such that he now employs a hundred people and his annual business turnover is $30 million. Look at him and his business sense that was developed by America, the standard America permitted, and then look at his counterpart in Slavonia, from where he went to America, and you will see what communism has done to this nation. If you were not a part of the communist elite, in order to live like a man, in order to be permitted to earn money, in order to develop your own business sense, in order for your children to be educated outside the communist ideology, you had to go thousands of miles away from that hellish fire.

So, what have our people found in America? Nothing except the opportunity Tito had not given to them. The opportunity to work and earn well, an opportunity to develop without needing to sell their soul to the Party! I watch them and I watch my parent’s generation and I can grab with my hands that crime that was perpetrated here (in Croatia). Because communism took away our soul, killed all creativity, nailed to the ground all business entrepreneurship, crushed the national conscience and destroyed the work culture, which our grandparents fundamentally had.

So, while Tito’s satraps masochistically taunted us, America and the West offered their hand to the Croats who knocked on their door, offered their hand to their creativity, rewarded and encouraged their entrepreneurship and let them attend church and hold the Croatian flag with pride, without being followed by secret police…That’s why I hold communism and Yugoslavia in contempt because they have stolen half a century from us. Because they murdered generations and stole their opportunity to live like people. Thousands of Croats would not have moved from their villages were they permitted to live like people, thousands upon thousands of Croats would not have left the land had there not been talk of impending liquidations of biblical proportions during the first days of revenge in 1945…They decided how much land you will cultivate, they decided how many square meters you will live in, they decided what you may sing and when you could revel. With what right? With the right of a pointed gun to the head! With head jerking towards Huda pit (mass grave of mass murders/communist crimes), in which you will end up if you don’t stop saying what you think. There’s still a sea of emotions towards the homeland within the Croatian diaspora, a sea of good will to return and, once again, it is the homeland’s move. This is the time of crossroads and truly the last chance for the homeland to offer it hand towards the emigrated Croatia that has been waiting for too long for that hand.”

While Dujmovic may have omitted to address the contribution Croatian diaspora could make to a better and more prosperous Croatia without necessarily returning to Croatia to live, the clear message remains: the governments of Croatia have done nothing much since the death of Franjo Tudjman (1999) to truly make the diaspora a continuing active, equal and vibrant part of the imagined prosperous Croatia. Not counting those individuals living in the diaspora continuing to contribute to the betterment of Croatia the lack of large-scale involvement from within Croatia towards diaspora is alarming and detrimental to Croatia in every way. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Maybe if communism was finally laid to rest in Croatia some f the businessmen who prospered outside Croatia will return and invest in their own country. Maybe some can bring their knowledge of business to Government and help complete that last mile towards a true democracy.
    xxx Hugs Galore Ina xxx

    • True David, a number have and many found it impossible due to red tape and other difficulties but those were the ones whose heart guided their business moves – now is the time for mass investment enablement by freeing red tape and other barriers to good business 🙂

  2. You hit the spot perfectly Ina with this one – the problem with Croatian approach so far – led by ex-communist mindsets mainly is that their vision is one way and blinkers that exists from whatever reason limit the ways the do things so they seem to be repeating themselves with same results of course – lack of adequate exchange with the diaspora

  3. humanwarehouse says:

    We have seen how the four most successful countries in diaspora engagement have benefited: Some 80 percent of foreign direct investment in China comes from its diaspora; India has become a global technology hub because of its diaspora; Israel has partnered with its diaspora to become one the world’s most prominent technology centers and the great “startup nation”; and Ireland has leaned heavily on its diaspora for everything from helping to resolve the conflict in Northern Ireland to attracting overseas investment, tourists and students.

    In short, diaspora equals jobs — and that is concentrating governments’ minds everywhere.

    The problem with Croatia is that communists still ruling the roost in many corners do not want the diaspora – they want Croats out so others can muscle in…

    • Yes Humanwarehouse, a lot to be said re communists and processes from within Croatia that are misguided and self-destructive. Shame. Perhaps the days that were to be from beginning will be – patience still has a bit of life 🙂

  4. Michael P says:

    From Facebook: A bit longer article, but worthy to spend 5 minutes on it. True, after death of Dr Franjo Tudman, no Cro Government did anything for Croatians living abroad, or for those who fought in Homeland War and in many ways helped or supported Croatia. The new Cro Government, I hope, will correct this and change some unfair laws, in the first place stop double taxes on Croatian pensioners, who return to live in Croatia, and introduce postal vote. I do hope, new Cro government will make us welcome.

    • Thank you Michael P., I too hope the new government will soon show us what it’s made of besides the three heads and get down to business of creating conditions in Croatia that will accommodate and enable what they’re talking about when it comes to the diaspora.

  5. Stevie10703 says:

    I’ve met so many great people in Croatia and you have two types, you have those who want the diaspora to return to their rightful homeland and then you have those who look at the diaspora with contempt. The sad part is that you know who they are and that is, the proud Croatians are they ones that want the diaspora to return and its the Yugo nostalgic that wants nothing to do with the diaspora, to those we are like their enemy. Those are the ones that blamed the diaspora for Josipovic losing to Kolinda in the Presidential elections and it’s sad. To those people, you’re not a Croatian, rather you’re an “Amerikanac,” or a “Kanadenin” or an “Australac,” etc etc.

    The problem with Dujmovic’s article isn’t that the Croatians suffered through a half century rather we suffered through over 70 plus years of Yugoslav rule….what people fail to mention is the fact that we as a people suffered though the first Yugoslavia as well, where our national identity was also suppressed and where the Serbs arrested and killed anyone who wanted an independent Croatia. Even Albert Einstein was forced to write an editorial in the NY Times saying why the world isn’t doing anything about the killings of Croatians that were ordered by the Serbian king. Then it got even worse in Tito’s Yugoslavia for the Croatians.

    Tudman’s problem is that he too didn’t have “lustracija.” Once all our territory was liberated that is when he should have started to open up the books and try all the Yugoslav communists for their crimes against the Croatian people. He also did other not so good things with good Croatians who he looked at as a threat to his hold on power. This is why we had people like Mesic and Josipovic as Presidents.

    • Perhaps all this is a preparation for a mighty lustration Stevie – otherwise no use talking and hoping for a better future, can’t shut the eyes to all that past but must let the past open the door to future. I personally am not moved or affected by the hate for diaspora that exists from many former communists because I know that hate is nothing more than a screen they use to defend themselves from being exposed for what they or their fathers were – communist thugs and criminals and thieves. So the more this is said the more truth will sink into their heads

  6. This article captures a rage that all Croats should feel. Yet, like the article said, the homeland is full of zombies created by communism and sustained by the likes of Milanovic, Pusic, Jugosipovic, Mesic the monkey and their blood sucking supporters. Just too sad.

  7. Buona Domenica delle Palme, Ina ! 🙂
    Con simpatia,

  8. Perhaps a small grassroots group of locals
    can begin a series of truth & reconciliation fairs
    with ample time for deep listening, understanding, healing & reconciliation. Some could even have food to entice out the villagers. Croatian people are deserving of truly feeling safe & satisfied 🙂

  9. Veronika says:

    Thanks Ina. Kraljica nasa.

  10. Truthful words by Mr. Dujmovic. He gets it. Both Yugoslavian regimes have contributed to this killing of the spirit and the killing of opportunity. Without allowing creativity to flourish and hard work & independent thinking to be rewarded, I think we are left with a population that has become apathetic. There are many of us who can see what’s wrong, but when you have the highest political and social institutions & the media constantly sabotaging the prosperity and even sovereignty of your country, fighting becomes exhausting. (Oh look, yet another political scandal and corruption case that makes the nation’s institutions look weak and in need of managing by a higher power.) We want a way out, but we are not well versed in how to fight politically and diplomatically. Centuries of fighting just to survive seems to have shaped this mentality.

    It is the diaspora that could hold the answers – as others have pointed out good examples of how well the diaspora can work to help a nation prosper. But as long as we stall full lustration, we cannot begin to reverse this communist mindset and replace it with one more similar to that of the American entrepreneur spirit. The political elites, the Tito worshiping generation & the media are littered with people who personify this collectivist mindset – apathy towards hard work, personal responsibility and the drive to succeed. This mentality is one which sees increased poverty as success, as long as we all appear equal on the surface. Individual success is a sin that must be punished. These are the collectivists that have sowed seeds of discontent between the homeland and the diaspora because they cannot stand the thought of the diaspora bringing in a positive mentality to Croatia. The Croatian people must resist their hatred and reach out to the diaspora that has always been on their side.

  11. I think Kat said it all with so much corruption rife in this world we are hard pressed as fellow human beings to try to put it right – But a saying l was once told says it all – When good men do nothing the devil is able to get his own way. Great post as always Ina .. Ian

  12. Communism is a virus, it doesn’t go away with band-aids, antibiotics or aspirin. It lingers like a mutated cancer cell just waiting for the right moment to reignite. It is in Croatia, in Europe, in the US, and we have become so stupid, we don’t even see it. My neighbors escaped communist Poland – and they remember quite vividly and are so incredibly perplexed why it is still considered an option… and scared that the US could succumb in its absolute vacant knowledge of truth.

    • Power is a mighty drug and Communists “knew” how to impose it and tailor their personal lives to best comforts and wealth while others suffered and depended on them, Helena, that’s just one of many ugly faces of communism and I can’t understand why there are not more groups protesting against it today in America and former communist countries as well

  13. “In the first instance, the communist mentality that is not being extinguished…for example look the Cadastre registries…they (communists) took your land, invented the Cadastre and entered their names into the land register!”

    It’s not just the communists of the past who stole land. My Croatian born father is currently in very poor health, and will die soon. My cousins in Croatia are currently building houses, as my father lies dying, on land that belong to our grandfather and was never formerly divided among his heirs. Is there no rule of law in Croatia? Does anyone know of a honest lawyer in the Zadar area that is willing to help a diaspora family that is being robbed as I write this post?

    • Just awful stuff, Marko…the point is that communists invented the Cadastre entries in which are quite akin to the concept of possessory title and people used the land any which way they wanted, probates were not pursued to divide estates etc one has this mess…you will need a lawyer it seems as your father would I believe have the right to his rightful share of inheritance from his parents but that needs to be proclaimed by the court…hope someone gets you a name of a good or trusted lawyer in Zadar.

  14. inavukic posted: ” In late 1980’s and early 1990’s it was the > conservative, centre-right political ideology that gathered 94% of > Croatia’s voters behind Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ to vote for and fight > for Croatia’s secession from communist Yugoslavia and C” >

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