What a fantastic day Monday 30 January in Zagreb. The new Zagreb International Airport has in the lead up to its official opening in the second half of March 2017 finally received its new name in big proud writing: AIRPORT FRANJO TUDJMAN!
This is the place where the world greets Croatia and Croatia greets the world. As far as I’m concerned there could not be a better and a more fitting public place in Croatia to be named after the man whose courage, determination and superior political prowess saw him lead the way to the creation of modern independent Croatia, away from the darkness and oppression of communist Yugoslavia. While the repugnant communist die-hard Stjepan Mesic, in his attempts to blacken Croatian efforts towards independence and democracy, began his persistent, underhanded, dishonest, depraved attack against Tudjman as early as 1993 on a worldwide scale that would see Tudjman’s name and his vision for a free Croatia vilified in most painful of ways, this week is a blessing of a proud moment for all who fought for Croatian freedom alongside Tudjman because of that bright writing above the entry to Zagreb’s airport. It was in June 2015 when Tomislav Karamarko as Leader of HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) put forward to the then Social Democrat led government the proposal that the new airport with its new terminal in Zagreb be named Franjo Tudjman, and now here we are: the “nametag” is firmly up above the entrance!
“The design of the new airport terminal by Branko Kincl, Velimir Neidhardt and Jure Radic was awarded a first prize following an international competition organised by the City of Zagreb in 2008. The airport design comprises a multidimensional approach integrating construction, form, urbanism, ecology and functionality. An important part of the terminal’s architectural design is the fluid form of its roof and the tubular passenger piers sprouting out on each side. This recognisable form will define the new terminal’s identity and its surrounding area. In achieving this form, a new innovative solution was used for the roof structure, comprising a triangular steel grid space truss for the main building and truss arch vault for the piers. The concrete construction of the interior comprises three dilatations of mixed precast TT beam floor slabs, reinforced concrete beams and monolithic floor slabs. Horizontal forces are supported by 4 concrete cores and shear walls. With a gross building area of 65.800 m2 and a starting capacity for 5 million passengers per year, Zagreb airport is to become a major air traffic regional centre.”
What a great thing for Croatia and its Homeland War, its independence. To appreciate the even greater than obvious enormity of the importance in the new name of the Zagreb airport we need to remind ourselves of the grave injustice and vilification that have been deliberately caused to the late Franjo Tudjman, the first president of Croatia and the memory of him.
A depraved path to “de-Tudjmanise” Croatia led by Stjepan Mesic had terrible effects and consequences for Croatia as a nation. Tudjman was maliciously branded a radical ultra nationalist who was in the business of reviving Croatia’s WWII Ustashe (called by some as Fascist) nationalist regime. Yugoslavia (whose last president was Stjepan Mesic) consistently portrayed Tudjman as a dangerous nationalist when he emerged with his ideas for an independent Croatia and Mesic later, even as a highly-positioned politician within the independent Croatia itself- persisted in such a portrayal, using lies and political manipulation in order to blacken Tudjman, criminalise Croatia’s defensive Homeland War and strip Croatia of all pride in its bloody battles for freedom and independence. As a result of Mesic’s filthy work even Tudjman’s magnum opus was generally ridiculed or condemned in the West and this is felt still today, despite the many truths about him that command respect and awe towards Croatian history matters he prolifically wrote about.
Often dismissed by Western and some politically left-leaning domestic academics as a loquacious amateur historian and depicted by the Western mainstream as well as pro-Mesic (pro-communist) domestic media as a nationalist and neo-fascist, Tudjman’s past as a dissident was too readily forgotten and his utter and utmost respect for formal, procedural democracy ignored. His almost prescriptive speeches in the Croatian Parliament and everywhere during the early 1990’s, when Croatia was transitioning out of the communist regime and when such speeches were needed, contained a detailed recipe as to how to bring in democracy into the Croatian society. He enumerated things and processes that needed to be done and how they are to be done if democracy was to succeed and communist processes be left to history. But all that increasingly fell on deaf ears as Mesic intensified his attacks against Tudjman, even providing questionable testimonies to the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague in the pursuits to criminalise Tudjman and Croatia’s Homeland War even if that war was defensive.
Propaganda was a staple of the media in all and about all former Yugoslav states, and Mesic seemed to find more “friends” to believe his lies than what Tudjman managed with the truth. After Tudjman’s death in 1999 and Mesic becoming Croatia’s president – there was no stopping Mesic in his continued ugly campaign against Tudjman and the Croatian Homeland War or war of Independence. The combination of malicious and false information and faulty but disastrously biased analyses did their work across the world. World’s noted journalists picked up on the efforts to de-Tudjmanise Croatia from within and led the external pursuits of doing harm to Tudjman’s name (and therefore to the name of Croatia). The effort to discredit Tudjman was indeed part of a larger campaign to maliciously portray Croatia as a neo-fascist state and its Croatian citizens as chauvinists who posed a threat to minorities within Croatia. And all they wanted was freedom from communism and independence and for that desire paid in rivers of blood in defending their own lives and country.
It will take almost forever to clear the mud off Tudjman’s name, of Croatia’s name, plastered so cruelly against them but I feel, and I know, that the name of Zagreb’s new airport will create miracles of justice and recovery from darkness and suffering imposed by others. Croatia may, after all, live to see Stjepan Mesic fall into the disgrace and shame he deserves to fall into – and finally free itself completely of its greatest enemy in its pursuits to rid itself of the Yugoslav communist mindset and habits that stifle its progress in democracy and in growing into a thoroughly modern nation. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A. Ps.(Syd)