Croatia: Covid Pandemic Keeps The Nation Divided

This Christmas is the second in a row since the Covid’19n pandemic was announced and I wish you all a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year with the hope that we all get at least a little bit of the warmth of togetherness of family and friendship love during the season.  

Now, well into the end of the second year since the World Health Organisation declared that the Covid-19 outbreak in China had become a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) (January 2020), the Coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the planet with multiple uncertainties, just as it disrupts Croatia. It has been a turbulent and uncertain journey with new variants emerging to seemingly unexpected new outbreaks raging, and multiple new vaccines developed, but their delivery uneven. Uneven because vaccine supplies were as such and uneven because the pro- and anti-vaccination and pandemic measures surges exploded like hurricanes, bringing third, fourth and now fifth waves of the pandemic…impoverishing many families both spiritually and economically.

Covid-19 vaccines have been increasingly looked to as the holy grail to provide the most promising efficient and effective means of putting the pandemic behind us—especially given the lack of effective treatment against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Whichever way one looks at it from the perspective of numbers of well-educated, well-armed scientists the science across the world is clear: Covid-19 vaccines are a safe and effective way to prevent serious illness, hospitalisation and death from the coronavirus, and vaccine mandates, particularly around employment and travel, are considered by governments an effective tool in promoting widespread vaccinations. Vaccine mandates have led to the emergence of vaccine nationalism whereby the governments introduce control measures that often rub many people wrongly and, hence, vicious disagreements with these measures develop. Croatia is a relatively small country of around 4 million people, but it is experiencing high rates of deaths from or with Covid; the number of these deaths will surpass 12,000 by the beginning of next week. And that is huge for a relatively small country.

 Clearly, the traditional nationalistic reaction was in fact common to all countries as soon as it became necessary to create public response policies to the pandemic, even if this was done with varying degrees of modesty and countries differed in the “severity” of measures and restrictions vis-à-vis the traditional freedom of movement rights people consider as entitlement. The Covid-19 crisis caused nationalistic practices to erupt almost everywhere: “wars” over masks, tests, vaccines, travel, vaccination certificates. All over the world, national withdrawal was proposed as an emergency solution, triggering the closure of borders at rates and in ways that were specific to individual nations, even when they belonged to the Schengen area of the EU.

Perhaps because it is a relatively small country Croatia’s divided population of the perceived benefits of vaccination, on the usefulness of control measures that are meant to stop or minimise the spread of infections are more visible and felt than in a bigger country. This often leaves the impression that the public mood in Croatia is largely that of bitterness and anger, which are often displaced and thus lead to lack of vision or confidence for the future.

Those looking at rejecting the government measures and lobbying against vaccination have in Croatia, as elsewhere in the world, adopted a warlike nationalistic narrative that can often, on individual bases, emerge as cruel insults to persons who hold differing views regarding Covid measures, in particular.  This aspect of public reactions to the pandemic evidently has to do with some ideological incarnations of contemporary nationalism and points to the national-populist variant that has little to do with the original nationalism, which emancipated from absolutism and imperial, colonial, or totalitarian regime control. Whatever it may be, this national-populist approach in Croatia is more likely than not responsible for a poor picture of health in Croatia when that health is measured by the number of people receiving Covid-19 vaccination. As in many countries across the world the social media in and from Croatia is riddled with anti-vaccination related messages, information and misinformation, and personal vicious attacks and insults against those who think differently.  Levels of vaccination are alarmingly low in Croatia; nationally about 51% of adult population is fully vaccinated at this stage.

It is becoming more and more apparent that in Croatia those standing against vaccination and against various measures such as vaccine mandates are concentrated among the various political parties in opposition, particularly those leaning to the conservative or right-winged patriotic political orientation, e.g., Croatian Sovereignists (Hrvatski suverenisti), Patriotic Movement (Domovinski pokret), various Croatian Party of Rights echelons (Hrvatska stranka prava), BRIDGE/MOST etc. Hence the opinions regarding Covid -19 pandemic, and its management have in Croatia become a political tool that evidently seeks nothing more except gaining favour among and winning votes from them at the next parliamentary elections. It is in my view most sad that all these political parties in the government opposition while protesting against government’s handling of the pandemic fail to explain how they would control the spread of the virus if they won government.

The determination to hold onto a particular opinion in Croatia among political parties can best be seen from incidents that occurred last week when a well-known politician, Member of Parliament for the Croatian Sovereignists, Hrvoje Zekanovic, openly accused the right-wing and other unvaccinated politicians (who are against vaccination) of being guilty of spreading the infection and sending people to hospitals.

“You are responsible – people are not vaccinated because of you. You speak against covid vaccine certificates. Vaccination should not be treated as a footnote. I wonder how those who visit prayer communities and pilgrims will confess, explain why someone on a respirator suffers and only because they trusted Facebook more than common sense,” Zekanovic said in the Croatian Parliament on 9 December 2021.

For these words Zekanovic is being ousted from the political party Croatian Sovereigninsts where he was a leader and indeed a most significant founder. He is apparently being accused of having spoken against the party lines and views on Covid-19 vaccination and measures to do with the pandemic control. And this comes from the political party whose senior members have often expressed criticism against people who follow the government’s advice for vaccination! Croatian Sovereignists have through this case proven that they do not stand for the independence and sovereignty they preach. If they did then they would not act so viciously against Mr Zekanovic. After all. Every political party that seeks to win elections must be seen to support both sides of the Covid-19 war – those for and those against vaccination and measures because the voters themselves, the public for whom the country exists is made up of people on both sides of the argument.   

Furthermore, one shudders in disgust at the raft of individual insults and awfully cruel comments about Zekanovic that have filled the social media. Just because he expressed his personal view regarding pro-Covid-19 vaccination!  I reckon that no decent human being could bear even thinking about let alone express such hatred and ridicule against another human being and fellow citizen.

From the above incidents it has become blatantly clearer than ever before that Croatia is bitterly divided onto two camps. Quashing the pandemic with a majority consensus in one or the other approach is looking more and more unlikely by the day.  

A comical thing one comes across in Croatia these days is that the pro-vaccination people are labelled globalist and blind followers of an ideology as if the anti-vaccination people are also not following a global movement against vaccination and pandemic measures, which also, if one likes, forms an ideology!   The pro and anti-vax movements, like many other issues that have emerged during the pandemic, serves as a stark reminder that our society’s public sphere is fundamentally broken. The long yet essential process of fixing it will require all of us, as responsible citizens, and media users, to work collaboratively on restoring public conversation mechanisms. But while you have politicians that are blind to one side of the argument coming from the people and not to the other, while there is no conversation between the two sides, while insults and vitriolic exchanges continue between the two sides, the politics of selfish pursuit of positions or bums on chairs in parliament will surely continue at the very detriment of the nation and, perhaps, towards a more physical conflict. Ina Vukic  


  1. Stick to writing about politics. Your comments on the so-called pandemic are utterly foolish and you sound like a shill for big pharma.
    If you think mandates are a good thing then you must miss repressive Yugoslavia. I believe in liberty – freedom of choice and not firing people or kicking kids off sports teams because they don’t want to inject something in their bodies to “protect” themselves from something with a 99.97% survival rate.

    • Master Robert says:

      Veronica, Covid-19 pandemic, its management HAS BECOME THE TOOL OF POLITICS FOR ALL SIDES OF THE ARGUMENT. or have you gone too far into one side that you have become blind to that fact.

  2. Good analysis of the situation. It is the same everywhere except for a few peculiarities from one country to another.

  3. Whoever does not agree with the truth should remain in his or her corner and contemplate on how to save the truth instead of letting lies ruin everyone’s lives. Great article Ina

    • Not a chance for that it seems Matt but we hope the verbal aggression towards those expressing different views will not turn into a physical one…the politics have become vicious, the race to keep power has become vicious…

  4. Very fine analysis Ina. Something is bound to turn

  5. You Ina are a very brave person, no one in Croatia or in some other countries dares to write about this truth for fear of being attacked. Good for you and I Love your work.

    • Thank you Wilkinson. We are constantly reminded of Orwells words that there will come a time when telling the truth will become a revolutionary act and these times may be one of those…

  6. Ina, first of all let me wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year. My own opinion is that politicians are using the pandemic to divide us in order to maintain their power and control by using vaccine mandates, quarantining and masking. I am a scientist and the science shows that young people are much less likely to die from Covid. Older people and people with co-morbidities are. They should get the vaccine since they are risking their lives. But you can’t make anyone do so – and now we know that even those who ARE vaccinated can spread Covid. This disease has to run its course and new vaccines developed. There is no such thing as 100% protection – even vaccinated paople can get the new Omicron variant. More people died from the regular flu last year than from Covid! It will run its course. And the politicians, with little scientific knowledge, or selected facts to suit their views, are making it worse.

    • Blessings to you and yours for Christmas Noelle and may 2022 be a year that brings joy and health. I so agree with the points you make. The sad thing is that Covid19 or pandemic has become a tool of politics and the main ingredient in campaigning for future elections to keep one’s bum on a Congress or Parliamentary seat. We see no tolerance for both pro and anti vaccine people on either side of the spectrum. One side wants everyone vaccinated and the other wants everyone not vaccinated. A mad house indeed but if we place or trust in science and doctors we entrust our health to all our lives I think we cannot go wrong. I am tired of receiving in my inbox information given out by all sorts of professionals and scientists that, when, checked, is found to be false or half-truth or just wicked sensationalism to have 5 minute of fame. I respect everyone’s decision they make for themselves whatever that may be.

  7. Wishing you a blessed and wonderful Christmas season! Joyeux Noel!
    Since you celebrated your 10th blog anniversary this year, a lifetime supply of Kraš chocolates in addition to the wine. 😀

    • WOW, with such great chocolates and wine I will need 20,000 instead of 10,000 steps a day! :)))) Merry Christmas and may it come to you Elisa with abundance of blessings for you and all those who surround you with love!

  8. Crăciun Fericit alături de cei dragi, Ina ! 🙂
    Alioșa ! 🙂

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