Croatia: Vicariously Reliving 1990’s Nightmares Through Ukraine’s Suffering of Today

With the brutal Russian attack against Ukraine many Croatians are reliving their own nightmares from early 1990’s. Serb and Yugoslav Army brutal attacks and senseless destruction against Croatia followed a similar pattern as is occurring now in Ukraine. God save the Ukrainian people from such bestial cruelty.

So, in Croatia it was in simple words like this: rebel Serbs living in Croatia who did not want Croatian independence from communist Yugoslavia decided to take over around 25% of Croatian territory known as Krajina, declaring it Serbian Republic of Krajina. The so-called Log revolution on that territory of Croatia is probably one of the most consistent events in contemporary Croatian history. This common colloquial name implies the beginning of the armed uprising of a part of Croatian Serbs, which took place on August 17, 1990, by blocking a part of the roads around Knin and Benkovac. Just as Russia has come to “aid” the Donetsk and Luhansk separatist republics in Ukraine, Serbia and Communist Yugoslavia Army forced their way into Croatia’s territory in their intent to preserve communist Yugoslavia and/or the creation of Greater Serbia state that would include areas of Croatia (and Bosnia and Herzegovina).

The war in Croatia was brutal but it was victorious for Croatia that fought as David in the proverbial David and Goliath War, as what Ukraine is fighting at this moment. But the European Union and the rest of the free world had punished Croatia for wanting to secede from communist Yugoslavia and imposed arms embargo! Ukraine appears to be receiving more aid than what it may need, and God bless today’s world for standing up for Ukraine and its sovereignty. It suited, I guess, the EU and the free world for whatever political agenda to label the attack against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina as a civil war even though it was not. Such political treachery somehow justified in their own eyes the arms embargo against Croatia, to disable it from successful defence of its people’s lives. And then, when Croatia together with the massive financial and material help from its diaspora managed to defend itself and secure a magnificent victory over its attackers, suddenly as far as EU and the rest of the free world decided there was no civil war in Croatia or Bosnia and Herzegovina; they now decided it was an international conflict between member states of former Yugoslavia. This political treachery was manoeuvred so that the EU and the Western powers wagging their self-important tails through the United Nations corridors could indict people for war crimes! In the case of Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac the indictments were false and it took years for them to prove their innocence at the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague.

It is good to see that Ukrainians have such a strong backing for their fight to stay independent and free and this help could shorten the nightmare they are currently experiencing.

The Croatian Parliament, by a majority of 133 votes in favour and one abstention, accepted on Friday 25 February 2022 the Declaration on Ukraine, which strongly condemns Russia’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence. During the debate, the ruling and the opposition showed a rarely seen harmony, with a message to Ukraine: “Croatia is firmly with you.”

The Declaration states that the Croatian Parliament strongly condemns the unprovoked aggression against Ukraine and its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence, and calls on Russia to immediately stop the military attack and withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory.

The Croatian Parliament condemns the Russian recognition of the self-proclaimed regions of Donetsk and Luhansk because this act represents a gross violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and undermines the foundations of the international order.

It is also stated that the Croatian Parliament gives full support to the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders, which is a fundamental determinant in relations and cooperation between the Republic of Croatia and Ukraine.

The Croatian Parliament expresses its full solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people and calls on the Government of the Republic of Croatia to provide humanitarian and technical assistance to Ukraine in this difficult time for them and for the whole peaceful world.

Among other things, the Declaration emphasises that in the context of the security situation in Eastern Europe, maintaining dialogue between all relevant international actors, calming tensions and aggressive rhetoric while respecting the international legal order and inviolability of international borders are key to preserving peace and stability in the region.

In ten points of the Declaration, the Croatian Parliament concludes that it is a secure, stable, and prosperous Ukraine in the strategic interest of all citizens of Ukraine, the European Union, the entire European continent, world peace and the international order.

Few people expected a war on the European continent in the 21st century, the war could have unforeseeable consequences for security and the economy, the world order has been called into question, what is happening is not just Ukraine, but all of us, said MP’s debate on the Declaration.

They strongly supported the sending of humanitarian and technical assistance to Ukraine and the expressed readiness to accept refugees from that country.

It was during the Serb attacks and aggression against Croatia that the world had become bitterly and sadly familiar with the term “ethnic cleansing”. Croats and other non-Serbs were driven from their homes in the Serb-occupied regions in Croatia; many forcefully taken to concentration camps for torture and death within Serbia itself and many murdered on their home doorstep. It is this dark reality from thirty years ago in particular that would seem to encourage Serbia of today and those Serbs in Croatia who sided with the 1990’s aggression to stand on Russia’s side and support Russia in what it is doing in Ukraine. Russia is doing to Ukraine today what Serbia did to Croatia in 1990’s and so it would be “handy” for Serbs if Russia wins in Ukraine and her victory acknowledged.

Evidence provides that Serbia has for several years been drifting away from the West, including the European Union which evidently it wants to join, and expanding its political, economic, and security ties with Russia as well as with China; both made up of strong and repulsive communist flavour. On Ukraine, Serbia has strayed even more dramatically from the European consensus, which is increasingly embracing a harder line against the Kremlin.  It is time that the West and the EU take a hard look at their accommodating approach toward Belgrade and show it that there are serious consequences for continuing this path, including potential sanctions. It is time for Croatia to take a hard look at its accommodating within its government the part of Serb ethnic minority that was directly and indirectly associated with the 1990’s aggression against Croatia and dissolve that association while maintaining the rights and needs of minorities in their daily living.  Ina Vukic

Happy Birthday Zeljko and Davor Glasnovic

Zeljko Glasnovic (L) Davor Glasnovic (R)

This year, 2022, marks yet another jubilee to celebrate in the realisation of freedom for Croatia – the May 1992 front door entry as member state of the United Nations. Between 1990 and 1995 thousands of Croatian freedom fighters descended upon the battlefields of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from all over the world, sacrificing their lives and millions of them struggled to drive away the utterly cruel Serb and communist Yugoslavia aggression. The victory against the cruel and genocidal aggressor was glorious for Croatians and it was to usher in democracy centred around all people in Croatia and beyond. How the Croatian nation has fared, without shedding communism and its mindset from all of its public administration, social and political milieus, as promised it would the very day of announcing secession from communist Yugoslavia in 1991, over the last 30 years is something we sadly and bitterly resent, knowing we cannot change that past, but the future is in our hands. Communist mindset, corrupt behaviour in public institutions and government still hold the reins that keep Croatia back from becoming a full democracy.

It is a nation’s duty to remember not only the heroism but also the suffering that fight for independence that were and are etched in the history of its existence and its hopes. And such memory is stronger when heroism and suffering are personified in people we live with, people we know and people we trust. And so, today, 24 February happens to be the birthday of twin brothers Zeljko Glasnovic and Davor Glasnovic, who had at time of raging war of aggression in Croatia come from Canada to lend a crucially helping hand in the creation of the independent state of Croatia on the battlefields and to take a heavy load of suffering through wounds and in Davor’s case – unspeakable torture as prisoner of Serb concentration camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today still, they serve as example of steadfast hope and determination that Croatia will one day be strong enough to decommunise; to rid itself of the insufferable canker that communism is.

I wish Zeljko and Davor Glasnovic a very happy birthday and know that many join me in these wishes.

Zeljko Glasnovic is a general of the Croatian Army (HV) and the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) and a politician.

Zeljko Glasnovic spent five years in the Canadian army, and a year and a half in the French Foreign Legion. In August 1991, he came to Croatia and joined the National Guard Corps. During the war he fought in Lika and on the Southern battlefield, and after the fall of Vukovar he moved to Bosnia and Herzegovina, to Tomislavgrad where he had to train new units.

In April 1992, he took part in the fighting in Kupres, where he was seriously wounded. He received a bullet near his heart, and it was said that he told his comrades-in-arms to leave him with a bomb he could use on himself should Serb enemy approach and start drawing. However, his comrades did not listen to him, so they dragged him across the snow-covered mountains to the Franciscan monastery on Šćit in Rama, from where he was transferred to Split Hospital. He spent two months in a hospital in Split, after which, still not recovered, he escaped and returned to the Kupres battlefield. In October 1992, he took over the King Tomislav Brigade. At that time, his twin brother Davor was captured in Kupres and tortured in Serbian camps.

He was first politically engaged in the November 2015 parliamentary elections. He is known for his firmly right-wing political views, especially in the area of the need to decommunise Croatia, and until July 2021 he was a member of the Croatian Parliament for the Croatian Diaspora.

Zeljko’s twin bother Davor Glasnovic also returned to Croatia from Canada to contribute to the defence of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the war of Serbian aggression. He was a member of the Special Unit of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia / SP GSHV Battalion Frankopan. On July 31, 1993, he was released after 13 months of torture in that Serb concentration camp, without one ear, in plaster, with a traumatised body that included having his knees drilled with electric drill, skin on his back torn away and an unbroken spirit for the freedom of Croatia.

Here is what Zeljko Glasnovic wrote about his brother Davor on July 31, 2021:

“On this day in 1993, after months of torture and Golgotha in a Serbian camp, my brother was released. The DORH (Public Attorney) never did anything against his torturers, nor were Croatian institutions interested in talking to him. They were not interested in where he was but instead, he was on the Serbian list of war crimes suspects in an area where he had never been during the period he was in their captivity.

While our defenders with fabricated indictments are sent to The Hague, executed, called war criminals, their dignity mocked, their victimhood belittled and forced to pay compensation to the families of killed aggressors who attacked our country, amnestied Chetniks and their families have special privileges, pensions, statuses, honour, reputation and even power. They are victims! This is a paradox that will last until lustration is implemented and final liberation of the Croatian home, which is still in the jaws of Yugozomboids, in which all defenders will be restored to their dignity and in which all victims will be able to tell their stories out loud, their abusers will be punished, and justice will at least partially be satisfied. For there will never be true justice for the fate of all victims, at least not in this world.”

God bless and Happy Birthday!
Ina Vukic

Croatia – Time Coming To Outvote Communist Chameleons  

While the fact that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg had in its ruling on 21 December 2021 a declaration that states have a right to dissolve or refuse to register parties that do not distance themselves from former Communist Parties  that may surely work to the advantage for a further democratised European Union, one huge problem exists that will, regretfully, see the communist mindset flourish for some time to come. This is because the chameleonic nature of both communist parties and communists that saw strictly communist parties, such as Croatian SDP/ Socialist Democratic Party, simply change its name to reflect political changes that ensued after the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the saturation of the ruling HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union Party with former communists and their mindset subscribers. It is easy for them not to put in writing any support for former communist parties. They are adapted to lying and changing their visible characteristics without notice, without regard to anyone bar themselves.

Also, former communist Yugoslavia dignitaries and their children, like chameleons, have adapted to the efforts in transitioning from communism into democracy by acting as if they genuinely wish for full and functional democracy but, in fact, they hold their backs propped up supporting corruption and nepotism that defined communist Yugoslavia. It would be fair to say that no functional democracy can evolve while the same cadre in power that existed in communist Yugoslavia exists in Croatia. Lustration was and still is the answer however late some say it is for it in Croatia. Furthermore, the mere existence in writing in the Historical Foundations of today’s Croatian Constitution of the communist Croatia i.e. Antifascist National Council/AVNOH as a legitimate foundation of independent Croatia in effect legitimises all communist mindsets and beliefs in today’s Croatia. The irony is one most cruel: communists/antifascists fought against and independent Croatia in World War Two and did also in the 1990’s Homeland War!

Ultimately, there can be no smooth transition from communism into democracy in Croatia without a clear and decisive cut from of the former communist party and/or its sympathisers’ repressive political grip. 

Perhaps this line of consideration lies in the lining of the reported European Court of Human Rights thinking that communist parties should not exist? Undoubtedly, this line of thinking would seem grossly debilitating and misleading without recognising that the power and might of the EU has been the exact backing the former and current communist sympathisers or operatives needed to maintain their political grip. Croatia has no official Communist party, but it surely has too many communist chameleons for any democratic and lasting comfort.

November 1989 the fall of Berlin Wall. Photo: Getty Images

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 laid the groundwork for new institutions, new states, and, in some cases like former Yugoslavia, new conflicts. In the more than three decades since Germany’s reunification and the European Union (EU) has taken a big growth in territorial shape along the way, with pains that persist, still. Some of those deep pains include corruption and theft prevalent still in many former communist countries that have become member states of the EU. Hence the rather recent move by the EU to install an office of audit and control over expenditure of the generous EU development funds that have seen gross misappropriation and theft. Croatia is one of those.

With the U.S.A. also extending its arms to keep an eye on corruption in Croatia by having its corruption watchdog present there, things may look up in a better light in years to come.

 Like the continent Croatia also has had to grapple with economic and political crises, demographic decline, illegal migration pressures, as well as the ongoing repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic during the past thirty or so years.

Functional democracy, the natural complement to Croatia’s emerging post-communist market economy, is disturbingly complex with its underlying corruption and fraud scandals that emerge to the surface too often. Croatia’s economy is small but at the same time very important for the political and economic stability of Southeast Europe, regardless of its Central Europe physical pull and orientation. The communist mindset and corruption that still define Croatia’s political elitism has made a genuine and thorough political liberalisation almost an unachievable goal. Too many people, it would seem, about 30% of voters who always turn up at the polls for the ideals of communism, are incapacitated to see beyond the personal perks and gains they enjoy from Yugoslavia times, such as high-end public housing, descendant Yugoslav Partisan pensions to dare to vote away from former communists … and the majority are simply too disappointed in communism still weaved into the country’s fabric that they simply have no energy to vote at elections or have abandoned all hope for a better tomorrow for which rivers of blood were spilled in the 1990’s. . 

Unfortunately, Croatia has not fully completed the transition to a market economy. A socialist/communist mindset still prevails in large parts of Croatian society. The income of most Croatians still comes from the government budget, social insurance, or public monopolies, not from revenues of truly competitive companies that operate strictly on market-based principles. So, any reforms that address public overspending, corruption, or bureaucratic and judicial inefficiency usually face strong resistance from the privileged majority and can take a long time to implement.

Fortunately, there are also a growing number of vibrant, innovative entrepreneurs leading small-and-medium-sized and internationally competitive companies across many industry sectors in Croatia. These companies have strong potential to grow and could become the locomotive of the Croatian economy and catalyst in the transformation of Croatian society. A problem does arise for Croatia with its alarming demographic picture though. The 2021 census results reveal that the total population of Croatia has fallen below 4 million to 3.88 million, or close to 10% in last ten years. A relatively huge number of working age Croats have emigrated from Croatia in search of employment and a more orderly and predictable future for their families; 400,000 in the past ten years in fact! The governing HDZ government attributes much of this to expected people movement because of Croatia becoming a member state of the EU some nine years ago. Others though insist that this fall in population, especially the young working people, has occurred as Croatia in its supposed transition from communism to democracy has held to the former political habits firmly. Corruption and nepotism meant and means that all young people, or older ones, simply do not and did not have equal opportunities in employment. And the increasing number of innovative entrepreneurial small to medium companies are largely formed by expats returning to live in Croatia because they love the people and country as homeland. Relatively very few of the returnees have to my information and knowledge succeeded in obtaining employment in the public owned and run companies that form the strongest of infrastructure of Croatian economy.    

Majority of people in Croatia cannot remain excluded from discussions of their future by abstaining from voting at general elections as they do now and in doing so, they help communist mindset and habits (e.g., corruption, theft, nepotism) thrive as acceptable standards of living in a democracy. The low turnout at general election has become an alarming trend in Croatia, as also in neighbouring countries of Former Yugoslavia. Widespread bitterness in governments of past two decades especially seeps through, almost paralysing many voters to turn up at the polls.

The question now is how far the political communist chameleons in Croatia – will go, and whether their evidently waning electoral popularity will remain adequate to form a government, whether their seeming popularity among voters will diminish markedly or grow as more and more dormant voters assemble the courage to step into the voting stations at next elections.

Croatia’s imminent stepping into the Eurozone in January 2023 will surely result in political fallout or gain by the time parliamentary elections are due in 2024, unless they are rushed forward should the government fall ahead of regular four-year parliamentary mandates. Certainly, Croatian government has fallen before, e.g. 2016 and new elections ensured. The scandals whose foundations lie in government officials or high functionaries embroiled in corruption and theft, insider trading or misappropriation of public or EU funds appear a very threatening force to the government. And when we add to this unsavoury formula of scandals the ongoing bickering and bitching between the Prime Minster Andrej Plenkovic and Croatia’ President Zoran Milanovic we may be witness to another political crisis in Croatia which no alternative other than early general elections could alleviate. The introduction of the Euro currency may prove a fertile ground for many radical changes such as hurried general elections with a highest turnout of voters since May 1991 referendum for Croatia’s secession from communist Yugoslavia!  

I would like to think that the thirty years since that referendum have shown the Croatian people ample evidence that communist chameleons truly exist – to the detriment of the values of the Croatian Homeland War. Not to mention that majority of those who fought for Croatian independence and democracy, who earned their stripes and medals for their significant contributions in the creation of that wonderful and beautiful independent state as a democratic one are hardly ever acknowledged in Croatia and its diaspora. If one is looking for the evidence that communist chameleons exist – look no further! Ina Vukic

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