1970 Important Evening For Croatia

Julienne Busic (Photo: Ina Vukic)

This article by the Croatia-based American author, writer and well known freedom and democracy activist, Julienne Busic (Julienne Eden Busic) was first published in November 2020 in dijaspora.hr. Articles like this are to my opinion most important in reminding us of the human suffering Croats endured under communist Yugoslavia where the dictator Josip Broz Tito together with Serbs who took up most positions of power inflicted oppression, humiliation, degradation and mass murder of patriotic Croats particularly during the post-World War Two years. I (Ina Vukic) have decided to publish here this article from 2020 which succinctly and masterfully brings to the reader what sacrifices, and determination (including leaflet throwing from skyscrapers such as the one in Zagreb, Croatia on 28 November 1970) were essential during the 1970’s to spread the plight of freedom from communism and here it is:

“… It was exactly fifty years ago, November 28,1970, the night before the former Republic Day in the former Yugoslavia. A friend and I were sitting on the top of the skyscraper, then a disco, on Ban Jelacic Square (Zagreb, Croatia). We silly Americans didn’t know that Croatians began partying late, around 10pm, so we had arrived a full three hours too early and the disco was empty. Lying on the floor next to us was a large canvas bag containing thousands of leaflets in the Croatian language that I had received from my boyfriend and later husband, Zvonko Busic, and they all contained an inconvenient truth. Back then, however, there was only one monolithic truth: Tito’s. And it was diametrically opposed to what was written in our leaflets: Yugoslavia was not a utopia in which all were equal, or an economic wonder, or a bastion of solidarity. It had the highest percentage of political prisoners by population in all of Europe, and its touted “Communism with a human face” was held together by force and terror. “Brothers, Croatians, Workers, Students, Intellectuals”, the leaflets read, “…we are asked in the name of brotherhood and unity to renounce our own name, to follow in the line of Tito and the party, to condemn our fathers and brothers…..who sacrificed their lives and rotted in the torture chambers of the “New Yugoslavia”… Economic failures and mass emigration were also addressed: “the reforms, economic preaching, bureaucratic meddling, minimum wage, liquidation and unemployment”. These were issues about which there was widespread discontent among all the nations, not just the Croatians. But as far as emigration was concerned, Croatians comprised the majority: “for us there was no work, but others got the jobs. We were told openly to find jobs abroad…because we are not the ‘leading nation’….”

In its detailed report on the leaflet-throwing incident a few months later, the U.S. Embassy pointed out that “the offending leaflet does not call for violent action within Yugoslavia. Instead, it urges Croatians to stand fast in the face of alleged injustices….it levels its sights directly or indirectly on such acceptable targets as deposed leaders Rankovic and Djilas…. the fascists….King Alexander’s dictatorship…and deplores the wholesale emigration of young Croats for jobs abroad, an issue on which the authors enjoy the sympathy of many in power today in Croatia.” The Embassy concludes that “although the leaflets are …highly uncomplimentary to Yugoslav leadership, they do not invite easy public condemnation, when expressions of regional and national interest have become increasingly a part of the local scene.”

November 1970 leaflet/ translation – activism against communist Yugoslavia (Photo: private album)

The Croatian Spring, the mass protest movement of students and intellectuals which took place in 1971, was still only on the horizon, so in that sense, the leaflet was avant garde, a harbinger of things to come, since many of the Croatian Spring protest issues were identical to those expressed in our leaflet in 1970. The outcome of both events was also identical: prison for me and also for a large number of the Croatian Spring leaders. Others more fortunate were given house arrest, lost their passports and jobs, and were banned from any type of public speech or activity. Ostracized, silenced, discriminated against, and belittled as “enemies of the people.”

Croatia is now an independent, democratic country after having been victorious in a brutal war of aggression in which thousands lost their lives, entire cities lay in ruins, and hundreds of thousands were forced to become refugees, dispersed throughout the world. The now-independent Croatia purports to place the highest value on freedom of speech based on the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and, in fact, there are over two hundred political parties openly operating in the country, and scores of individuals continually criticizing the government. Nobody has yet been charged, as I was, with disseminating “hostile propaganda” which “advocates or incites the violent or unconstitutional change of the social system or state organization”, and so on and so forth. Such activities, in the former Tito dictatorship, mandated a prison term ranging from 3-12 years.

But as the German philosopher Nietzsche so wisely pointed out “everything deep loves a mask”; in other words, the masks are not always pleated and blue, hooked around one’s ears, and are not always visible to the human eye. There are many ways to curtail freedom of speech without putting people in an actual prison. And things are not always as they appear, there are dark currents beneath the surface, strange combinations of people and events leading to scores of unanswered questions, for example: if Croatia now has a “free and independent media”, why are people still ostracized, silenced, discriminated against, and belittled as “enemies of the people”, just without the actual prison? And why are they typically those people who would have been sent to a real prison in former Yugoslavia, charge with “hostile propaganda” or “attempts to change the existing system”? And how is it possible that journalists, professors, politicians, and judges who acted as secret police officers or informants in the former Yugoslavia have been allowed to re-invent themselves as “democrats and human rights champions”, and now hold the majority of high positions in politics and the media, deciding who is silenced and who is “appropriate”?

Perhaps the best illustration of the well-known phrase “the more things change, the more they remain the same” is the cancellation of a speech not long ago, without explanation, that I was to hold in a Zagreb high school, one of many such successful lectures I had given over the years. The title: What is worth sacrificing oneself for? One of the subjects I was to discuss: freedom of speech issues in the former Yugoslavia, as illustrated by the leaflet-throwing incident on Ban Jelacic Square. Thus, I was silenced in democratic Croatia about talking about when I was silenced in dictatorial Yugoslavia!

Throughout the years, I have often sat on Ban Jelacic Square drinking coffee and gazing up at the Neboder, imagining I can still see the thousands of leaflets floating to the ground into the crowds of people below. The terrace was enclosed after my “crime” to prevent others from doing something similar, and nobody ever did. To commemorate the event decades later, after Croatian independence, the former director of the Neboder presented me with a crystal vase inscribed with the date of the leaflet incident, and my act is also mentioned in an information brochure on the history of the building. Today it has been largely forgotten, swept away with the winds of time that dictate a benign view of the former dictatorship and vilification of its critics.

But there is a strange consolation in this: What truer place for the just man unjustly accused than a prison, with or without the bars? (Julienne Busic)

Croatia: PM Visits Bosnian Croats And Protesters Say No Sex In Public Firms

Centre: Zoran Milanovic, Croatian Prime Minister In Mostar 9 Feb 2014 Photo: Branimir Boban/Cropix

Centre: Zoran Milanovic, Croatian Prime Minister In Mostar 9 Feb 2014
Photo: Branimir Boban/Cropix

This is not a joke; this is reality!
“Why is there no sex in state firms and government offices?… Well because it’s all relatives…family … in the Council, in the Government, in the Cantons ” says a protester on the streets of Bosnia in this translation of this fresh video clip.

In other words nepotism is rampant and chances for achieving real changes without some serious moves are nil!

Failed, fraudulent and corrupt privatisations, obscenely rampant unemployment (almost 60% among youth and about 42% generally), obscenely wide gaps between the rich and the poor, and the utterly inefficient and unaccountable political system are said to lie at the basis of the predominantly Bosniak (Muslim) protests that had gripped Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) for over a week now.

Protests in Tuzla, Bosnia Photo: AFP Getty Images

Protests in Tuzla, Bosnia
Photo: AFP Getty Images

Parts of towns and cities across BiH have seen eruptions of aggressive protests; government buildings burning (even the National archives building where a great deal of a thousand years of history has been reported as destroyed), rocks and all sorts of steel, sharp missiles thrown at government buildings, at hordes of bewildered police that sheltered themselves behind shields, crawling and shuffling at times against walls like black caterpillar formations in fear of injury, yelling and screaming “Down with corrupt government” “thieves – out!”, holding banners with inscriptions such as “Moja jedina nada, je da padne vlada” (My only hope if for the government to fall). In Tuzla, Mostar, Zenica and Sarajevo, government buildings have been set on fire and there have been demonstrations across much of the rest of the country. Hundreds have been injured, including policemen, but the determination in the protesters’ eyes is fierce – they want to overthrow the government that has brought them nothing but misery, unemployment, hunger, more corruption…no hope for their children’s future…

Graffiti: "He who sows hunger, reaps anger!"

“He who sows hunger, reaps anger!”

Several leading elected officials in BiH have been under investigation for corruption. Ethnic or nationalist squabbling has paralysed government institutions and it’s not getting any better.

It is in that circumstance and reality that one must protect the nationality or ethnicity that’s being downtrodden and repressed, just as we would do for ethnic minorities anywhere.

Serbs and Bosniaks outnumber the Croats in BiH and, as a result Croats have demonstrated the suffering from threats to their very existence, identity, power to self-determination and struggle for equality amidst an ever increasing and ever louder self-imposed ethnic and administrative superiority of Serbs and Bosniaks.

Croatia’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic had decided to pay an emergency visit to Mostar and its burned buildings last Sunday. On that occasion he said, “all this would not have happened had the EU had clear BiH politics …I will make efforts towards achieving talks between EU and BiH …”. He emphasised several times that he had come there to give support to the EU path for BiH although some saw his visit to Mostar as support for the Croats living there for whom he said were already citizens of EU (apparently referring to those who hold double citizenships/that of BiH and that of Croatia).

Back in Zagreb, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic stated:

It’s not realistic to ask a state such as Bosnia and Herzegovina to change its constitutional frame, which is 20 years old, and there is no consensus for this. Let’s accept Bosnia and Herzegovina as it is now. It’s not perfect, its Constitution is not the best but in the EU there is at least one country in which it is known that the president must be of one religion, vice-president of another religion or nation. That is not good, but at this moment this is the only possibility.”

At the same time Serbian Republic’s Milorad Dodik keeps pushing for a territorial division of BiH into three parts; One for Serbs (well they already have it in Serbian Republic, which they seized through genocide and ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks and Croats in the 1990’s) one for Bosniaks and one for Croats (source: Croatian TV evening news 13 Feb 2014 ). Having previously stated that the protests are also to destabilise Repubika Srpska and further involve the international community in the country’s politics.

The political/government order in BiH Croatia’s Prime Minister seems to support in reality is this: Three constitutional ethnic groups (Bosniak, Croat, Serb), five levels of government, two political entities (Serbian Republic and Federation of Bosniaks and Croats), one special district (Brcko), ten cantons (in the Federation) that compete with local governments (Councils) making it fourteen governments in BiH and one internationally appointed High Representative. The reality has been that in this situation no one answers to no one, and everyone makes their own decisions as they please, and to make things worse nepotism has spread like a plague in all public firms (and in private ones to a lesser degree).

In the constellation of loud Serbs and loud Bosniaks the Croatian voice is hardly heard; their presence in BiH seems to be even more repressed than before. So, Zoran Milanovic’s visit to Mostar can be seen as a reminder to all that the third ethnic entity in BiH exists and has rights also, although his motives for the visit can be seen as attempts to help quash nationalistic outbursts there.  Given the absolute fact that Bosnian Serb and Bosniak (Muslim) nationalistic passions are and have been running high for decades it’s a pity that he did not speak louder on behalf of Bosnian Croats who are struggling with their rights and identity within Bosniak predominance in the Federation.  Bosnian Croats have an absolute right to having in BiH what Serbs and Bosniak have – a piece of BiH where their voice will predominate; their rights be duly fought for and realised.  It was Croatia’s late president Franjo Tudjman who supported the evident and strong will of Bosnian Croats to self-determination and self-governance and for that he was branded as criminal! Perhaps Zoran Milanovic fears speking out too loudly in support of Bosnian Croats in fear of being labelled by the international political wheelers and dealers a criminal, too?

The current protests in the Bosnian Federation can only serve as a testament to what it was like for Croats in BiH during early 1990’s! A bloody fight for survival amidst competing Bosniak and Serb majorities! The international community has all but accepted that Serbs in BiH have a right to their entity; the Bosniaks seem to be waging protests not for the motive visible – get rid of corrupt government – but possibly to get rid of the cantons and thus achieve ethnic majority across the Federation, cutting any chance of expression where it counts for the Croats.  Croats deserve their own entity in BiH and that does not mean that such an outcome would result in tearing apart the BiH created by Dayton agreement.

Graffiti: Stop Nationalism Stop Nationalistic Division of Bosnia United Bosnia

Graffiti: Stop Nationalism
Stop Nationalistic Division of Bosnia
United Bosnia

It is true that the protesters have claimed to be anti-nationalist. The violence has stopped during the past couple of days and protests have taken the form of so-called “plenums” in the streets. Meetings of “fed-up” citizens at which they’re attempting to formulate political demands are being held and more planned as we speak. If these plenums don’t result in clear directions, in clear leaderships, in clear demands, nothing will change. All this unrest will be remembered as loud venting by frustrated people, some of which have been labelled by politicians in power as hoodlums.  These Bosniak led protests have been dubbed by the participants and supporter as “Bosnian Spring” – this reminds one of the recent “Arab Spring” and not the “Croatian Spring” of 1971 when Croatia unsuccessfully and with terrible backlashes sought greater independence from Tito’s Yugoslavia. How anyone can call this the “Bosnian Spring” when the only people participating in these protests are Boaniaks (Muslims) begs explanation! Serbs are not taking part, Croats are not taking part (except for a reported few in Mostar) – it cannot be a Bosnian Spring because Bosnia has three ethnic groups. Let’s not forget the Croats in Bosnia for they truly have been and are – endangered! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Better Grave Than Slave

2011 is nearing to its end and it would be remiss of a commentary on Croatia’s key events of the 20th Century if it did not pay respects to the slogan of the “Croatian Spring” December 1971 student’s and citizens’ mass demonstrations and appeals:

“Bolje Grob Nego Rob”

          “Better Grave Than Slave”

December 1971 "Better Grave Than Slave" (Bolje Grob Nego Rob) police and army use force to stop mass demostrations as part of "Croatian Spring" in Zagreb, Croatia

40 years ago the people’s mass- movement in Croatia known as the “Croatian Spring” ended as 1971 drew to its close. “Croatian Silence” followed. Tito, the president of communist Yugoslavia with his strong army quashed any Croatian freedom, even the singing of traditional folksongs.

He reintroduced a nasty, repressive regime in Croatia based on the power of UDBA, Yugoslavia’s despised secret police.

In the 1950s, the Yugoslav regime attempted to create a one unique language for both Serbs and Croats: Serbo-Croatian. The two variants were respectively distinguishable by accent and pronunciation (ijekavski and ekavski), and by scripts (Latin and Cyrillic), as well as numerous words. In March 1967, several most influential cultural and scientific institutions in Croatia published a Declaration on the Name and Position of the Croatian Literary Language, demanding that Croatian and Serbian variant be treated as two separated languages. They regarded the Croatian variant was discriminated against as opposed to the Serbian one.

Croatia sought more autonomy within Yugoslavia especially within the banking and proportional fairness in the distribution of earned wealth, to have the Croatian rather than the unnatural Serbo-Croatian language constructed in Belgrade (Serbia) during 1950’s, to freely express Croatian national pride through literature, arts and song, to have more civil freedom … to retain a Croatian identity within Yugoslavia.

The Yugoslav leadership evilly labelled the whole affair as a restoration of Croatian nationalism and had the police and the army suppress the student and other demonstrators.

Army tanks, armed soldiers, police vans and cars stood on the streets of Zagreb for months after the December 1971 demonstrations.

Police patrols circled the streets at night, interrogating, beating, taking to the police stations anyone whom they pleased; young or old. More than two persons gathering as a group in public places was prohibited.

In 1971, Soviet Union leadership applied additional pressure on Tito directly by Leonid Brezhnev and indirectly by its ambassadors to Yugoslavia, to assert control of the Communist party within Yugoslavia, ostensibly adhering to the Brezhnev Doctrine. http://www.vecernji.hr/vijesti/kako-su-rusi-lomili-tita-slomili-hrvatsku-clanak-347999   (How the Russians Pressured Tito and Broke Croatia/article in the Croatian language)

After the calls to the student strike, in December 1971 Tito persuaded to resign some unreliable, in his view, public figures and made a sweep in Croatian communist party and local administration. Many student activists were detained and some were sentenced to years of prison.

Some estimate that up to two thousand people were criminally prosecuted for participation in these events.

Among those arrested at this time were future president of Croatia Franjo Tudjman and dissident journalist Bruno Busic (assassinated in Paris 1978 by Yugoslav UDBA secret police). There were several other notable political prisoners in Croatia from this period;  Drazen Budisa, Marko Veselica, Redomir Pejic and others.

All convicted of  “felonies against the people and the state”, “verbal offense against the state” etc–

In 2002 the confidential correspondence from the British Embassy office in Zagreb & Belgrade became available to the public. From these, Sir Dugald Stewart who was the British Ambassador to Yugoslavia 1971 – 1977, felt that the events from December 1971, Croatian Spring, will be marked as historical key events in Croatia’s flight from Serbian overbearing power.

And indeed Stewart’s hunch was right – Croatia freed itself twenty years later/1991 (sadly for total freedom it had to endure a terrible war of Serbian aggression that lasted to August 1995).  http://www.nacional.hr/clanak/12886/britance-odusevila-titova-odluka-da-slomi-hrvatsko-proljece article in the Croatian language.

Croatian Cross

This December also marks the 12th anniversary of the death of dr Franjo Tudjman who lived and breathed for Croatian freedom from oppression and for democracy and self-determination in Croatia.

Dr Franjo Tudjman (Franjo Tuđman) died on 10 December 1999.

In public life he was a historian, a writer, a politician, a prisoner for Croatian Spring 1971/72, sentenced to 3 years prison and 5 year public activity ban by the communist Yugoslavia in1981 for giving an interview to Swedish and German TV favouring democracy, the first President of the Republic of Croatia, 1992 – 1999.

He was a Tall Poppy that many tried to bring down, many still do. But he still stands tall in memory as a man of firm belief in Croatian people and steel courage in his battles for Croatian self-determination and truth.

Behold, we know not anything;

Dr Franjo Tuđman

I can but trust that good will fall

At last – far off – at last, to all,

And every winter change to spring.


 So runs my dream: but what am I?

An infant crying in the night:

An infant crying for the light:

And with no language but a cry.”

(In Memoriam, Canto 53 [on humanity], Alfred Lord Tennyson)

Ina Vukic, Prof.(Zgb), B.A.,M.A.Ps.(Syd)

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