Croatia: Trials And Tribulations Of Celebrating Independence

 

Croatian Parliament Friday 7 October 2016 Celebrating 25 years of independence Centre left: outgoing PM Tihomir Oreskovic and Zeljko Reiner, President of Croatian Parliament Photo: sabor.hr

Croatian Parliament Friday 7 October 2016
Celebrating 25 years of independence
Centre left: outgoing PM Tihomir Oreskovic
and Zeljko Reiner, President
of Croatian Parliament
Photo: sabor.hr

During the 1990’s in Croatia people knew that for a state to have its own parliament also meant that the state was independent and sovereign. Long gone are the days, though, when in celebration of 30th May (1990) the Croatian Statehood Day/Day of Independence jubilation spread across Croatia and its diaspora like wildfire and one cannot but notice nostalgia for the jubilation to return. Indeed, a dose of such nostalgia could be felt in the speech given at the reception hosted by the outgoing Speaker of Parliament Zeljko Reiner on Friday 7 October in honour of 8th October 1991 – the date when the Croatian parliament voted to finally sever all ties with Yugoslavia. On that day, 25 years ago, Croatia said its final goodbye to communist Yugoslavia.

“…When the moratorium date of the decision for independence of Croatia expired in 1991, Yugoslav Army planes bombed Banski Court (Croatian government offices) in an attempt to assassinate Croatian president Franjo Tudjman. Croatian parliament session had to then be moved to another location in Subiceva St … and not in its normal Parliament building (across the city square). At that time Croatia was unarmed, under the UN embargo preventing it to secure weapons and under special lack of will to help Croatia. The pressure for us to give in was terrible. The war was imposed and led on our territory; against all citizens … it was a fight for all or nothing. The newly established democracy and multi-party system were placed into jeopardy. It was because of the fact that we had visions of freedom and a democratic Croatia, and because there was unity that we managed to achieve it … the path was hard and filled with pain for more than 15,000 lives lost. We must never forget that more civilians were killed in their own home than soldiers on the battlefield…said Reiner at the ceremony, emphasising that no one would ever again be allowed to threaten Croatia, and continued:

Let this anniversary be an incentive to bring back to our citizens the hope and confidence and to start the recovery of the country that will bring happiness and satisfaction to all its citizens. This requires patriotism, strength of will, determination, wisdom and responsibility, as well as courage, just like in the Homeland War. I am confident that the call for the new session of Parliament, which will most likely be constituted next week, with the new government will achieve that…”

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic Photo:Dragan Matic/ Hanza Media

Croatian President
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
Photo:Dragan Matic/ Hanza Media

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic sent a message marking the 25th anniversary of Croatia’s final severance of all ties with former Yugoslavia: “We are allowed to be and we must be proud of our young state, which emerged from many centuries of battles for freedom. We have achieved a great deal in our 25 years of independence. After the harsh experiences living under the totalitarian regimes and dictatorships we have successfully developed a democratic culture, we have built institutions, we have become a notable member of international organisations and institutions. Our students, innovators, business people, scientists, doctors, artists, sports people and many others achieve notable success across the world… this is the day when with respect we remember all those who had contributed to the realisation of that historical goal, starting with the first president dr. Franjo Tudjman and the Croatian veterans, who had during those days defended (Croatia) from the most grave aggressive attacks,” said president Grabar-Kitarovic.

 

And so, one needs to wonder why with such great speeches and messages from the tops of Croatia’s leadership one comes across very little cheer in the streets, among the people? Could it be that persistent and often underhanded injections of communist resistance to a free and democratic Croatia have severely dampened or shattered the joy Croatians used to express on Independence or Statehood Day particularly during 1990’s? Observing all this, one is justified in saying that the minute the former communists/ left wing political parties entered into government after Franjo Tudjman’s death in early 2000, prompted by former communist anti-Tudjman president Stjepan Mesic, started contemplating upon ways of watering-down the elation for Croatian independence celebrations, the celebration moods would start falling and relative coldness set in.

 

Croatian first president Franjo Tudjman at the inauguration of the Croatian Parliament 30 May 1990

Croatian first president
Franjo Tudjman
at the inauguration of
the Croatian Parliament
30 May 1990

Croatia’s first president Franjo Tudjman had considered that the most important date to celebrate for an independent Croatian nation should be in remembrance of the day when, after the first post-WWII free and democratic general elections the Parliament of Croatia (that would usher Croatia out of the oppressive federation communist Yugoslavia) was inaugurated – that was 30th May 1990. Indeed, given that actual exit or secession from Yugoslavia was achieved through a multistep process it would only be logical and fair that the very same process was celebrated on the date it started, rather than on the date it finished. For years 30 May was a holiday and a celebration in Croatia and abroad filled with joy and pride. Tudjman died in late 1999 and the former communists decided to abandon 30 May as the Day for celebration Croatian Statehood and Independence; these communist killjoys knew what they were doing: bring confusion among the people about the day/date independence should be celebrated – bring in the element that would eat away at the celebratory joy and confidence in the good for what had been achieved.

 

And so, we arrive at today’s confusion as to which date of the three possible is best to celebrate Croatia’s independence – this purposefully staged confusion has its roots in the 2002 sessions of Croatian parliament when the centre-left majority passed a new law in regards to the public holidays, remembrance days in Croatia. Suddenly 30th May was out and 25th June came in as the date to celebrate Croatian Statehood/Independence Day. The former communists (who as a reminder did not want Croatian independence in the first place and many walked out of the Parliament in protest, in 1991) in 2002 ushered in 25 June (1991) as the day to celebrate. They had all commenced a political lynch based on lies against Franjo Tudjman even before his death and now that he was dead – they concocted an opportunity to remove 30 May celebrations from the people; remove the date that was associated with so much positive emotion for Croatian freedom and independence and the leader who made it happen. 25 June 1991 had been the date when the Croatian parliament (inaugurated 30 May 1990) proclaimed Croatia’s independence from communist Yugoslavia and, as a matter of interest, at the European Union’s request the decision was frozen for three months (the three months that saw the escalation of terrible attacks, ethnic cleansing, murder against Croatia by Serbs and the Yugoslav Army).

 

8 October (1991) also became a public holiday in Croatia and this was to celebrate Independence Day or the day when Croatian parliament severed its entire links to former Yugoslavia. Increasingly over the past fifteen years it appears as though having two days as public holiday to celebrate Croatia’s independence but not the original date of 30 May has achieved the goal intended by the former communists: many people don’t feel confident which of the two dates (25 June or 8 October) should be the “right” one to celebrate and, hence, apart from several events organised by the veterans, sadly, not much celebration occurring in the streets this past weekend!

 

If one was to heed the words said by the President of the Croatian Parliament, Zeljko Reiner, last Friday one would need to conclude that no hope or confidence like the ones present at the beginning of the independence could be brought without bringing back that glorious date of 30 May to celebrate. In the past couple of days a suggestion to that effect has been made by one of the original members of parliament, Vladimir Seks, who also suggested that a referendum on the issue of the date on which Croatian independence should be celebrated is the best way ahead. I do disagree with this strongly and besides the fact that Croatia is too poor to be in the position to pay for a referendum on that matter, 30 May is when Croatia started functioning independently with its new parliament and that date should be celebrated as the Day of independence. Independence is one single concept and reality even though it usually is achieved via separate events of processes. So, Croatia would do well to start recognising that fact and stop confusing its people as to which event in the process to independence means more than the other. 30 May 1990 is the date from which Croatian road to independence truly started and so this date should represent independence – no referendum needed. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A.,M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: Happy Statehood Day

Franjo Tudjman

 

23 years ago, on 25 June 1991, the Croatian Parliament delivered a constitutional decision on the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Croatia, declaring Croatia an independent State. Croatia would sever itself from communist Yugoslavia.

 

As evidence in the above video-clip, on that day Franjo Tudjman, the President of Croatia and the driving force behind Croatia’s independence said: “We can no longer support the state in which hidden and public aggression and pathological hatred and evil exist towards everything that is Croatian, in a state community in which we are faced with continuous threats, the use of aggression both joint and illegal in the shape of rebellion and terrorism. Declaring the independence of Croatia we are doing the same as all nations of the world do in the path to their independence, from the same national reasons”.

Narrator’s voice in video: “The historical decisions about a free path to the future were based upon the results from the referendum at which 93.2% voters circled “Yes” for independence of the state. In such a way the Croatian people had democratically expressed their wish to manage their own future and destiny. The referendum rejected all other options offered, which placed Croatia in an unfavourable position, and the proposition made by the Federal Prime Minister Ante Markovic for some kind of a democratic Yugoslavia and Slobodan Milosevic’s Greater-Serbian concept of the so-called Modern Federation, that is, of a new Serbo-Slavia. Croatian Parliament has unanimously voted for the Declaration of Independence but that unanimity was somewhat eroded by the fact that the reformed communists, under the name of Parties for Democratic Changes, expressed their voice against the Constitutional decision and the law. The club of Social Democrat (SDP) representatives sought that together with the process of separation there be a process of joining with other Yugoslav republics. That proposal was rejected and the parliamentary majority within which the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) held most seats decided upon a full and unconditional Croatian independence. The same day the Republic of Slovenia delivered its own decision for state independence. Yugoslavia was no more, although international factors advocated for some new kind of a Yugoslav community. That was the reason why a three-month moratorium and arms embargo was imposed upon the new states, which left the new states at perilous mercy of Serb aggression. But in the Homeland War Croatia defended itself and in January 1992 the international community had no choice but to recognise the new political reality on the South-East part of Europe”.

The prelude to independence and statehood
Translation of narrative in video about the referendum for Croatian independence: “In the history of the modern Croatia 19 May 1991 is one of the most important dates. That day Croatia came out to vote at a referendum, at which it was deciding about its future. The ballot paper had two questions.

Are the citizens for that Croatia as a sovereign state can enter into an alliance with other sovereign states and other republics or to remain within Yugoslavia, which would be a federative state? 83,56% of citizens voted at the referendum and more than 94% accepted the first choice, which in effect meant they decided for an independent Croatia. 4.18% voted against. 1.2% ballot papers were declared invalid. The referendum was held in dramatic circumstances of Chetnik rebellion that were assisted by Milosevic’s Greater-Serbia regime and the Yugoslav Peoples Army as the last advocates of the weakening communist Yugoslavia …in the meantime the army leaders formed its own party Communist Alliance – Movement for Yugoslavia, which assessed the democracy in Slovenia and Croatia as a temporary victory of counter-revolution. Milosevic and the Yugoslav Army assigned to Croatia the destiny of a small state that can be seen from Sljeme (mountain above Zagreb) and under the leadership of people like-minded with them (former communists/Social Democrats) … ”

23 years after June 1991 it’s difficult to shake off the threat to Croatian independence and sovereignty that existed in 1991 from the communists and as described in the last words of the above passage. The threat has grown roots in the political maneuvers od all political parties that stay loyal to the communist or antifascist groups of former Yugoslavia and, hence, it can be felt to this day. Despite that Croatia is a lucky country for it has multitudes of courageous and determined citizens who fight for progress in democracy and for settling the accounts with the evil communist regime that was under Yugoslavia. God bless them and happy Croatian national day! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: Happy Statehood Day – Once More!

The Statehood Day in Croatia used to be celebrated on 30th May, while President Franjo Tudjman was alive (died 1999). It marked the day when in 1990 the first post-Communist multi-party Parliament was constituted. Since 2002 June 25th has prevailed as the Statehood Day because it marks the day of Croatia’s declaration of independence from Yugoslavia.

I declare to the whole world that on this day the Republic of Croatia is proclaimed sovereign and independent state,” were dr Franjo Tudjman’s words on 25th June 1991.

To make things confusing even more Croatia’s Independence Day is marked on October 8th because it was on 8 October 1991 when Croatia cut all ties with former Yugoslavia. Those in government and leadership who wanted any which way to discredit and vilify Franjo Tudjman were the ones most responsible for creating such confusion. Needless to say they come from die-hard communist echelons; many of whom did not want an independent and democratic Croatia in the first place.

Little did they suspect that a grand love for freedom and democracy would prevail and result in multitudes celebrating Croatian Statehood Day on both May 30th and June 25th ! Spreading pride and love can never come in surplus!

So, to join in June 25th celebrations of Croatian Statehood Day I offer the following snapshots of that absolute beauty that will, come 1st July, become a full member state of the European Union. (Click on photos to enlarge)

A view from the house I was born in Island of Korcula Croatia

A view from the house I was born in, Island of Korcula Croatia

Old Korcula town Croatia

Old Korcula town Croatia

June 2013 - passenger ship arriving in Korcula Croatia

June 2013 – passenger ship arriving in
Korcula Croatia

June 2013 - fishing at Korcula Croatia

June 2013 – fishing at Korcula Croatia

June 2013 - a Korcula Croatia beach

June 2013 – a Korcula Croatia beach

June 2013 - inviting waters at Korcula Croatia

June 2013 – inviting waters at Korcula Croatia

Cruising on a boat around old town of Korcula Croatia

Cruising on a boat around old town of Korcula Croatia

Pristine waters at wharf in Korcula Croatia

Pristine waters at wharf in Korcula Croatia

June 2013 - Badija Island near Korcula Croatia

June 2013 – Badija Island near
Korcula Croatia

June 2013 - old chapel at cemetery Korcula, Croatia

June 2013 – old chapel at cemetery
Korcula, Croatia

June 2013 - alleyway in old town of Korcula, Island of Korcula, Croatia

June 2013 – alleyway in old town of Korcula,
Island of Korcula, Croatia

Grape vine shade Island of Korcula Croatia

Grape vine shade Island of Korcula Croatia

June 2013 - Hvar Croatia

June 2013 – Hvar Croatia

Small beach on Island of Hvar Croatia

Small beach on Island of Hvar Croatia

St Marl's church Zagreb Croatia

St Mark’s church Zagreb Croatia

May 2013 - Zagreb Croatia Mimara Museum

May 2013 – Zagreb Croatia Mimara Museum

April 2013 - Tkalciceva street cafes Zagreb Croatia

April 2013 – Tkalciceva street cafes Zagreb Croatia

May 2013 - King Tomislav statue Zagreb Croatia the glory of Spring and history

May 2013 – King Tomislav statue Zagreb Croatia
the glory of Spring and history

March 2013 - the snow still here Zagreb Croatia

March 2013 – the snow still here Zagreb Croatia

March 2013 - Zrinjevac Park Zagreb Croatia

March 2013 – Zrinjevac Park Zagreb Croatia

Folk singers on Ban Jelacic Place Zagreb Croatia

Folk singers on Ban Jelacic Place Zagreb Croatia

Love and desire are the spirit’s wings to great deeds.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

HAPPY STATEHOOD DAY, CROATIA!

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