The first Yugoslavia (1919-1941) was created in Versailles for Serbs and dominated by the Serbs, under a Serbian royal family. The Serb ideology led to centralist government policies and a dictatorship after 1929, which provoked greater resistance from other national groups – Croats, Slovenes, Bosniaks, Macedonians… However, in April 1941, the Axis powers bombed Belgrade and invaded Yugoslavia. The Germans proceeded to dismantle the Versailles division of territory by returning much of Vojvodina to Hungary and Macedonia to Bulgaria, while attaching Bosnia and Herzegovina to a newly proclaimed “Independent State of Croatia,” known as the NDH after its Croatian name: Nezavisna Dražava Hrvatska under the control of a Croatian nationalist party, the Ustashe and their leader Ante Pavelic. Despite Croatia’s claim to be independent, Germany and Italy divided Croatia into zones of influence, in which each stationed troops. The Germans occupied Serbia and the nationalist Serbian government headed by Milan Nedic administered the Nazi policies and politics.
The Allies won WWII and Yugoslavia’s communists were on that side and Allies utterly ignored the pre-WWII plights for independence from Serb-controlled Kingdom of Yugoslavia by Croats and Slovenes in particular, thus strengthening the installation of communist Yugoslavia. Communist Yugoslavia set up headquarters in Serbia and was dominated by Serbs in all key positions of political and economic power. The forty-five years of communist Yugoslavia (1945-1991) did not produce the politically desired “brotherhood and unity” between its constituent nationalities/ethnic groups (Serb, Croat, Macedonian, Slovene, Bosnian and Herzegovinian). Instead, amidst blatant discrimination against non-Serb nationalities and oppression, the country gradually fragmented again into increasing pursuits in various states (Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina) towards independence and secession from communist Yugoslavia. The early 1990’s freedom and secession from communist Yugoslavia pursuits succeeded in all states of Yugoslavia bar Serbia and Montenegro, who united as self-proclaimed the natural heir to Yugoslavia.
Serbia contested and protested the right of the Yugoslav republics to self-determination. To them, the Croats could have their Croatia, but not within its sovereign and internationally recognized borders and, according to Serbs it could not include areas with large numbers of Serbs. Similarly, if the Muslims and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina wanted an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina, it could not include regions with large numbers of Serbs. Hence, a most murderous and criminal clearing (ethnic cleansing via genocide, mass murder, forced deportations …) of non-Serbs ensued in 1991 in Croatia and 1992 in Bosnia. Military Operation Storm in August 1995 in Croatia liberated most of the Croatian Serb-occupied territory while later in the same year the Dayton Peace Agreement ended the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On 5 August Croatia celebrates its 1995 Operation Storm victory over the Serb aggressor and Serbs, including Serbian leadership have still not accepted anything from that aggression as their responsibility; heck, they keep denying it and keep supporting the evil myth that hundreds of thousands of Serbs were forcefully deported from Croatia in 1995 after the Operation Storm when in fact even the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague way back in November 2012 (in the case of Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac) found that there had been no forced deportations of Serbs by Croats or Croatian forces.
Ever since the Croatian court quashed the communist Yugoslavia verdict against the Blessed Alysius (Alojzije) Stepinac on 22 July 2016, Serbia’s government leadership and President (Prime Minster Aleksandar Vucic, Foreign Affairs Minister Ivica Dacic and President Tomislav Nikolic) have been escalating their hateful rhetoric against Croatia, alleging that this quashing of the verdict signals that Croatia is rehabilitating the WWII Ustashe regime and fascism! What a load of hateful stuff.
Relations between Croatia and Serbia have plunged deep in recent days to the level where one must ask why Croatia even bothers relating at all to its aggressor who has not even acknowledged its murderous ways let alone offered any decent podium for true reconciliation. Inflammatory protest notes and harsh statements have been flung across the border from Serbia that in effect constitute Serbia’s meddling in Croatia’s internal affairs. Impermissible!
Tension is expected to escalate even more in coming days as Croatia gears up for the annual anniversary celebration of its victorious 1995 military operation, Oluja, (Storm), on August 5, marking the day when the Croatian military quashed a Serb occupation and power-hold in south-west Krajina region.
Some naïve political analysts have said “despite the angry rhetoric from politicians in both countries, the escalation in tensions between Croatia and Serbia is not expected to have long-term consequences for their relations or for regional security. Nor is it expected to be a setback for Serbia’s progress towards EU accession. Overall, this is a re-raising of tensions, which are always present.” Such a light outlook on such a serious matter is most damaging because the Croatian people continue to suffer vilification and fear a resurgence of Serb aggression within their own country, and which fear had not been removed by the victory of Operation Storm in 1995.
The absolute need for Croatia to block the closing of Chapter 23 in Serbia’s path to EU membership unless Serbia changes, does away with its laws through which it, Serbia, gives itself the right to prosecute people across the territory of former Yugoslavia for crimes committed anywhere on that territory during the 1990’s war of aggression, in which Serbs were the aggressors, must be pursued by Croatian authorities. According to its current law, Serbia has universal jurisdiction over war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and can prosecute all crimes, no matter where they took place or who were the perpetrators. This potentially and actually means that a British, Irish, French, German, US, Canadian, Australian or Middle East national could also be prosecuted by Serbia as individuals from those countries did join the fight for freedom against Serb aggression in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina etc.
Trumped up charges are no strangers to Serbia in its quest to clear its name as aggressor using denial and false assertions.
Furthermore, that which corroborates the fact that Croats justifiably fear Serb aggression to this day is found a reported Open letter to the President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, reportedly written on 25 July 2016 by a bunch of thugs living in Serbia who call themselves “The Government of the Serbian Republic of Krajina (RSK) in Exile” – the thugs and criminal their associates who ethnically cleansed of non-Serbs one third of Croatian territory (Krajina) and occupied it between 1991 and 1995! The letter reportedly includes the following demands:
1. That she express remorse and apology to Serbs who were expelled from the RSK and Croatia. (Now, the facts are that Serbs, after having ethnically cleansed and destroyed much og Krajina fled voluntarily, fearing any possible repercussions to their murderous deeds in Croatia, as Croat forces regained the occupied territory in 1995 and ICTY in the Hague ruled there had been no expulsions/forceful deportations of Serbs in Croatia).
2. Stop the Ustashe events on 5th August in Knin (Operation Storm celebrations). Stop gloating and pour salt over our painful wound of early August, because you have not defeated anyone, except the elderly women and children you killed in their homes. Moral nations are ashamed of such victories. Milosevic’s officers had pulled the Krajina army out, probably fearing threats from your NATO patrons, not your defence forces. (While being a demand of florid lunacy, in here the Serbs admit they pulled their army out of Croatia [who by the way took the Serb civilians with them] and yet in the demand above they say Serbs were expelled.)
3. Return to us Serbs our stolen land Serbian Republic of Krajina (This corroborates the pathetic and dangerous belief that Serbs maintain regarding owning part of Croatia’s sovereign territory. This territory had always been Croatian despite the fact that under the Austro-Hungarian Empire Serbs from Serbia were centuries ago permitted to settle on Croatian land.)
4.Return our to us our property in the same condition as we had left it when we fled and that you had destroyed. You destroyed property, you fix it. (Well now, while Croatia has done a great deal in ensuring housing etc for those Serbs who had returned to live in Croatia after the war, Serbia and Serbs have done absolutely nothing in paying for damages to properties belonging to non-Serbs they had destroyed in Croatia. It’s time Croatia does more on this with view to demanding compensation from Serbs.)
5.Return the Serbs into the Constitution of R. Croatia, as an equal and constitutional people. (Well Croatia has never been populated in such a way that would justify this. Furthermore, majority Serbs in Croatia had never been loyal to Croatia as their hiomeland but always looked to Serbia as their only homeland and wanted to annexe part of Croatia for Serbia.) … etc to 14 demands.
“As far as we, the representatives of the people of Krajina, are concerned we are ready for talks and negotiations on all the points of our demands. If anyone considers that we will give up Krajina they are terribly fooled. Throughout the history Serbs have been coming in and out of Krajina but they had always returned to it! We also will return. It’s only a matter of time and worldly circumstances… In Belgrade, 25 July 2016, Rajko Lezaic, president of RSK Assembly.”
Can anyone believe this appalling state of affairs? Croatia’s president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic should ignore this letter if it reaches her office abut she should not discard its implications. It constitutes an important part of the threat that has been incessantly, with increasing force, coming from Serbia into Croatia. It should form a part of firm and resolute policie in dealing with these threats and vilification against the Croatian people for the good of peace and piece of mind. The inflammatory diplomatic notes, the distressing statements and claims Serbia and Serbs are making against Croatia currently may tone down after the 11 September 2016 general elections in Croatia but they will never tone out unless Croatia’s leadership shows some teeth in Serbia’s direction and rejects publicly, so the whole world can hear, all such vilifying rhetoric from Serbia and Serbs against Croatia. In order to prove EU still desirable after Brexit the EU may regretfully show a lighter hand in its requirements for Serbia to become an EU member state, but that does not mean Croatia must accept those lighter standards. No way! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)