Croatia: Cyrillic Tampers With Our Hearts – Croats Announce Referendum On Bilingual Ethnic Minority Rights

Public Discussion on Cyrillic in Vukovar Zagreb, Croatia, 24 October 2013 Photo: Sanjin Strukin/Pixsell

Public Discussion on Cyrillic in Vukovar
Zagreb, Croatia, 24 October 2013
Photo: Sanjin Strukin/Pixsell

The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.” Article 21 (3) – Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

And now if we turn the spotlight upon Croatia’s transition into democracy (from totalitarian regime of communism) that still lasts, without a doubt, those who uphold human rights know that transition must engage the design and implementation of inclusive national consultations on transitional justice mechanisms; support the establishment of truth-seeking processes, judicial accountability mechanisms, and reparations programs; and enhance institutional reform.

The issue of introducing Cyrillic script (Serbian) alongside the Latin one (Croatian) in Vukovar has attracted a plethora of reactions worldwide; praise and recriminations! The praises went and go towards expressing agreement with the human rights of victims to be afforded due respect and consideration while at the same time maintaining the focus on the need to prosecute war criminals. The recriminations went and go towards rehashing unassociated events of WWII instead of rehashing the events of Croatia’s Homeland War, that are associated. But, of course, if the latter applied then the critics of the protests against Cyrillic in Vukovar would not have a leg to stand on.

Another bilingual sign was torn down this week in Vukovar, reported 22 October Croatian TV HRT.

Problems with bilingual signs continue in the eastern town of Vukovar and although the world wouldn’t know it if it depended on mainstream media, this issue has escalated to a national issue of profound and widespread discontent that won’t go away any time soon. On Tuesday new dual-alphabet Latin and Serbian Cyrillic signs were erected on the Croatian Employment Institute in Vukovar, replacing the ones that had been torn down by protestors twice previously only to be torn down overnight.  The police are investigating as to who was behind this latest incident.

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic met last week in Vukovar with those who in past months led the protests against the introduction of Serbian Cyrillic script there. At the meeting it was agreed that the heavy police presence guarding the controversial signs would be withdrawn. Another meeting is scheduled for Zagreb.

The Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar said that it had nothing to do with the latest incident and announced that they’ll be coming to the scheduled meeting with the Prime Minister next Monday with an ultimatum:

If the bilingual signs are not taken down they would cease collaborating with the government and press forth with collecting citizens’ signatures for a referendum in which people would record their views as to the following three questions:
1.    Do they agree that the threshold for the introduction of bilingualism be raised to 50% of ethnic minority population?
2.    Do they agree that Vukovar be declared as a place of special piety?
3.    Do they agree that persons who had participated in the aggression be banned from working in public service?

In its news program 24 October HRT reports that another bilingual sign had been torn down overnight, the one which was nailed three meters high on the criminal court building in Vukovar last Monday!  But this wasn’t all; another bilingual sign was torn down in the afternoon and that was the one that replaced the one torn down a couple of days ago (beginning of this article) and replaced the same day.

HRT also reported that the Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar has commenced public discussions on bilingual signs and on the initiative that Vukovar be declared a place of special piety. The first public forum was held Thursday 24 October in European House Zagreb and it heard that the Committee seeks a moratorium on the constitutional law on ethnic minority rights until the next census and that a provision be introduced into the constitutional law which would require at least 50% representation of ethnic minority in a population before bilingual signs could be introduced.

Should the government not satisfy these demands, the Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar  and its supporters would do everything in their power for Vukovar to become an unwelcoming city for the government and its representatives. The public Forum also announced the possibility of a referendum (as set out above).

Dr Vesna Bosanac, who headed the Vukovar hospital during its destruction and massacres by Serb aggressor in 1991, said at the public discussion forum: “Cyrillic bothers us because they (Serbs) were celebrating Cyrillic while murdering us … we all suffer from PTS (post traumatic stress) and this Cyrillic is the trigger that’s pushing us backwards. Regardless of the fact that the Prime Minister and his followers explain that all us Croats are above all that and that in essence the Cyrillic is not important at all, to us it is important. To us – it is very important, it tampers with our hearts …”.

Dr. Vesna Bosanac, Association of Croatian doctors volunteers 1990 - 1991 Photo: Screenshot HRT TV News 24. 10. 2013

Dr. Vesna Bosanac, Association of Croatian
doctors volunteers 1990 – 1991
Photo: Screenshot HRT TV News 24. 10. 2013

Croatian veteran Tomislav Josic, president of the Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar, emphasised at the public forum that nobody has yet been made to answer for the excessive shelling and bombing of Vukovar and that the Committee is fighting against the introduction of bilingual signs because the census figures upon which the erection of the same is based, are unreliable.

He further said “war criminals walk freely through Vukovar and have not been prosecuted. 750 were murdered at Velepromet concentration camp and nobody has been made to answer for that … It’s said in our country that everything is according to law. Privatisation was also implemented according to law. I would like to see who wrote those laws. Others should have initiated public discussion, create forums and then pass laws.”

Tomislav Josic, President of Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar Photo: Screenshot HRT TV news 24.10.2013

Tomislav Josic, President of
Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar
Photo: Screenshot HRT TV news 24.10.2013

Indeed, Vukovar is a horribly wounded city. And the government is not listening or seeing.

One gets the unsettling feeling that the government holds the view that reconciliation between Croats and Serbs in the region can be achieved via force – turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to the suffering of victims and the need to have suspected war criminals processed.  Prime Minister and all the ministers keep telling us that the law must be adhered to but fail miserably at acknowledging the fact that the same law allows for discretionary powers if applying that law causes unrest and controversies, to put it plainly.

Furthermore, the Croatian government seems to act as if laws of the country are not the patch it is supposed to work in; that is, as if it has nothing to do with the government, that someone else passed that law and it must adhere to it!

What a tragic stand for a government to stick to! Governments exist to change, amend existing laws and bring in new ones if people circumstances demand or require that. That is the beauty of democracy and an absolute necessity with a transitional democracy.  Regretfully, both the full and the transitional democracy in Croatia have quite a stretch to run under such incompetent governance. But, of course, it may not be incompetence of the government we’re talking about here at all – it could well be that harsh politics are at play. And the harsh politics that come to mind are those that seek to equate the victim with the aggressor and those that still believe in totalitarianism!

Such being the case, the public discussions initiated by the Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar can only be applauded – loudly! For here, perhaps for the first time in the history of Croatian democracy (since 1991) we have people telling the government in no uncertain terms they don’t just want the laws changed but that they want to have a say in the writing/composing text of laws!

Vukovar is indeed a place of special piety and it is, as of this week, a place for which the people – not the government – have spoken firmly for democracy and it’s legislation pathway!   Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Related Recent Posts:
Croatia: Cyrillic In Vukovar Reveals Governmental Discord With Democracy

Croatia: Blood Boils In Vukovar Once Again – This Time For Human Decency

Croatia: Remains Of Mass Murdered Buried As Vukovar’s Croats Stand Aghast From Government’s Aloofness

Sotin, Vukovar - October 2013 burial of remains of 11 Croats  murdered by Serb aggressor December 1991 Photo: Davor Javorovic/Pixsell

Sotin, Vukovar – October 2013 burial of remains of 11 Croats
murdered by Serb aggressor December 1991
Photo: Davor Javorovic/Pixsell

A joint funeral was held Monday 14 October in Sotin for 11 Croatian victims (4 Croatian soldiers and 7 civilians) of Serb aggression exhumed from a mass grave in April this year and only recently forensically identified in Zagreb.  The youngest victim was 25 and the oldest 72 years old at the time of their brutal murder in December 1991.  Yugoslav-Serb forces brutally occupied Sotin on 14 October 1991 and mass murders of Croats occurred soon after.

Present at the funeral were family members of the victims supported by numerous Homeland war veterans and other Croats from Sotin, Vukovar and from across Croatia. Present were also Vinko Kovacic, representing the president of Croatia, Zeljko Sabo, mayor of Vukovar who also represented the Croatian Parliament, Bozo Galic, representative councillor for Vukovar-Srijem region and Croatian government representative Predrad Matic, minister for the veterans.

Archbishop Djuro Hranic reminded that in Sotin, on the outskirts of Vukovar, 64 villagers were killed or murdered during the Homeland war against Serb aggression and there are still 18 of them on the missing list.

Archbishop Hranic emphasised that people of Sotin had been searching for their loved ones for years, in a peaceful and non-aggressive manner and said that “simply nothing less than that can be expected”, nor can they give up looking for those who are still missing.

The unpleasant twist to this funeral was that minister Matic was whistled at, albeit with some constraint one usually finds in such circumstances blended at funerals with respect for the dead. Minister Matic, whose stubborn and cold approach regarding the heavily weighing issue of bilingual signage, is particularly unpopular among veterans’ associations who are fighting to achieve the status of special piety for Vukovar and, hence, exclude the city from having bilingual signage (Croatian Latin and Serbian Cyrillic) on public buildings.  Many Veteran organisations simply do not accept him as their representative.

As reported by, Matic commenced his funeral speech with “Dear guests and invitees!” What happened to say: “I have come here to pay respects…” – the funeral was certainly not an event where guests come as per invitation. Bad taste, awful mind-set.

It is to be noted that all individual Serb nationals charged in Croatia with the mass murders in Sotin live in Serbia and Croatia cannot prosecute; Serbia it is said is still investigating these murders! So much for Serbia’s efforts in expediting reconciliation!

Croatian veterans pursue their rejection of bilingual signage in Vukovar as written in my previous post on the matter,however all their actions and protests have been put on temporary hold in honour of the funeral for the victims of Sotin.  Croatian veterans’ website further says:

While many citizens of Vukovar prepared for attending the Sunday Holy Mass they were greeted with a ‘greeting card from the Croatian government’ in the form of ‘strong police forces and the mounting of new bilingual signs in the city of Vukovar”.

The tearing down of signs by the people, by family members of those murdered during the war, by veterans and their supporters, the government had responded by replacing them with new ones in Vukovar. No dialogue still between the government and the veterans regarding the veterans’ pleas for Vukovar to be declared a place of special piety. To pour more oil on this nationally distressing issue there had been activities in support of Vukovar’s Croats in other towns across Croatia. That is, bilingual signs were taken down by unknown persons in Vojnic and Krnjak – places where these signs have existed for years without any problems. Again, the government swiftly replaced those signs.

So, instead of dialogue we have the situation where bilingual signs get torn down by the people and the government swiftly replacing them.  The government has expressed a slight inclination to hold talks BUT only with the veterans and place of its choice; calling the shots instead of negotiating with the people at the front of discontent and moves to declare Vukovar as special place of piety. Hm, someone should ensure reason prevails here and it looks as though it won’t be the President of Croatia for he said a couple of days ago that his calls for dialogue have failed and that the situation is most serious.

One would expect a much more decisive action from the President than: “I’ve tried but they won’t come!”

In the meantime, since the government has done nothing in regards to the veterans’ calls for the 2011 census figures to be reviewed – a new count of people living in Vukovar area be done – the veterans’ are not standing idly but are pressing ahead with checking that census data themselves to see whether in fact there are not as many Serbs living there as the census said (about 34 %).  The veterans have forwarded a letter to the President and the Prime Minister in which they claim that the 2011 census figures are wrong, that Vukovar’s population does not consist of one-third Serb ethnic minority (which is the point at which bilingual signage can be erected according to constitutional law/but not if it creates unrest) and in which they sent evidence of more than one thousand of Serb nationals who are according to 2011 census living in Vukovar but in fact are not there but living in Serbia or elsewhere or registered at non-existing addresses!

Corruption comes in many forms and one of those forms is evidently in the fact that the Croatian government at this stage does not want to check the facts regarding the number of people from ethnic minorities actually living there, the number of false registrations. Mind boggles as to why the government keeps its stubborn and chillingly aloof stance in this, pouring thus oil on the unrest, which many in the world would see as ethnic intolerance in Croatia!  Given that the veterans’ association has in a relatively short period pin-pointed to more than a thousand falsely registered Serbs in Vukovar (which is not a small number given the size of population) one has every right to be alarmed and concerned. Veterans have an absolute right to truth especially when that truth has and is hurting their lives, their families, their society. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)

Croatia: Bonjour Tristesse

Ethnic cleansing of Croatians of Vukovar 1991  Photo:

Ethnic cleansing of Croatians of Vukovar 1991 Photo:

What tragic consequences await the people led by governments which, in their hunger to fit into international halls of applause, look away from their people to abide to what others who are beyond borders say, rather than looking in to put their own nation first, may perhaps prove to be nothing less than what Françoise Sagan immortalised in his classic novel underpinned by lack of moral fiber that eventually destroys the main characters’ life.

One may go so far and say that governments of Croatia since Franjo Tudjman’s death (1999) have been more concerned with what “must” be done (that which foreigners want) in order to pursue membership in the European Union and what unreformed Communists cooked up in order to thwart full freedom from communist mindset, than furthering the noble cause of democracy and sovereignty for which the people had suffered terribly.

Achieving full and meaningful sovereignty in essence requires resolve and determined assertion of rights to self-determination. Croatian people had asserted the foundations for those rights through defending their life and property from Serb aggressor. But terrible wounds of war and pain remained while the governments that paraded over the people through the past two decades appear to have done very little, if anything, to heal the wounds through instilling and building pride for the cause so many had died in defending. It is more than apparent that the governments embarked on shattering rather than truly furthering the pride that sovereignty brings. This, one may safely conclude, is one of the sad consequences of the circumstances when the majority of people wanted out of Communist totalitarian system but many of its powerful leaders still remained loyal to the communist creed based on the control of the powerful and the powerlessness of people whose daily lives that creed affects.

Franjo Tudjman warned everyone of these dangers even as early as 30 May 1990, in his speech at the Inaugural assembly of the Croatian Parliament:

“… According to my personal persuasion, the first and the most important task of the new democratic government in Croatia should be the creation of all spiritual, material and legal preconditions for the sense of legal civil and national security of all its citizens, for peace and trust among them. Not only the big scriptwriters from the opposing and especially hegemonic Unitarian and dogmatic camps, but also all those people who are tied to the past and who are confused by democratic movements and traditions to which they are not accustomed, do and will do everything in order to obstruct the realization of our goals, to inhibit and compromise the introduction of the rule of law system, order, work and morality. Luckily for us, and them as well, they must quickly come to understand the general internal and international circumstances, especially the omnipresent unavoidable collapse of the real Socialist system render their scenarios as futile historic anachronisms. That, of course, does not mean that we can afford to underestimate the dangers from different forms of threats, blackmail and even provocation which come our way almost daily from anti-Croatian and anti-democratic lairs and headquarters. On the contrary, that has to motivate us even more to jointly, all of us, and each individually, do everything so that reason, freedom and progress conquer passions, the rage of darkness and backwardness...”

The former president Stjepan Mesic surfaces as the apparent and active main engineer and driver that pursued in multitudes of ways (covert and overt) in the spread of confusion about the Homeland War and the defence of Croatian right to self-determination. He opened this road of confusion and bitterness in the late 1990’s by spreading hatred and lies against Franjo Tudjman and inciting suspicion into the cause of defending Croatian independence by “announcing”, fraudulently, to the world that Tudjman really wanted part of Bosnia and Herzegovina for Croatia. Mesic had totally and intentionally omitted the fact that Croatians of Croatia, in solidarity with the threatened and attacked Croatians of Bosnia and Herzegovina did the just and universally moral and correct thing by rushing in to help those in need. Then, when he finally realized his dream and became the president of Croatia in 2000, Mesic started purging from the corridors of power the brave Croatian Generals who had dedicated their lives to the defense of Croatian self-determination in the Homeland War.

Along came multitudes of foreign and domestic demands for reconciliation between Croats and Serbs of Croatia but those demands rarely, if at all, considered the rights of Croatian people – indeed, the rights of Croatian victims, as priority, were almost ignored. The whole world seemed to buzz with criticisms regarding the slowness of reconciliation between the Croats and the Serbs; regarding the slow pace of Serbs returning to Croatia after they had fled from it in 1995. Hardly anyone mentioned the slowness of return to their homes of hundreds of thousands of Croats and Muslims who were ethnically cleansed from their homes. Hardly anyone batted an eyelid to the sad fact that more than 2000 Croatian war veterans had committed suicide from despair; hardly anyone said: hey, wait a minute, it’s all good to worry about the Serbs who fled Croatian after they’d reaped havoc and destruction there, but how about the Croats who sustained the horrid injuries and damage from that havoc and destruction! Hardly any of these foreign or domestic political power brokers said: Stop! Let’s first heal the wounds, let’s first deal firmly with all crime committed, let’s not forget the many thousands of women raped by the very Serb men who are allowed to walk the same streets as their victims – freely!

Let’s put Croatia first! No one said, but everyone should have!

That was the intention of Franjo Tudjman and the 94% of voting citizens who had elected democracy and sovereignty, self-determination, in 1990. But that intention fell into the water as power-hungry politicians paraded across Europe, to and from Croatia, neglecting severely the needs of the victims who suffered horribly in order for Croatia to realize it’s dream, its intention to set up and live democracy. Confusion about the righteousness of the pursuit of self-determination and democracy reached boiling points when the trend to equalize the aggressor with the victim began gaining ground throughout the years of Stjepan Mesic’s presidency over Croatia.

And now many are surprised why many Croatians are protesting against the introduction of Cyrillic in Vukovar area. Indeed, many outside of Croatia will say that the protests signify intolerance of Serb minority in Croatia; denial of human rights Serbs have… WRONG! Croatians have rights also and their rights as victims are a priority. There is no country in the civilized world where a government would allow the language of a murderous and raping aggressor to be used on official signage in the places where still-suffering victims walk.  Only the misguided and the rotten, the morally corrupt would allow such deepening and such prolongation of torture of victims.

How can one have Serbian Cyrillic on street signs where so many rapists walk the same streets as their victims! How can one have Serbian Cyrillic on street signs where there are still over 1,700 missing people from the times of Serb aggression!

After the Vukovar protest against Cyrillic signage, the protests are spreading further and the government still doesn’t listen to the people. There is loud talk in the corridors of power proposing that Constitutional law must be applied regarding ethnic minority rights to own language on official signage but that perhaps, given the widespread protests, Cyrillic signage could be excluded from war memorials such as the Ovcara massacre one!

Can you believe this degradation of human dignity!

One simply cannot isolate grief and suffering into small pockets when it affected the whole area!

How hard can it be to realize that the controversial Constitution law was made under Stjepan Mesic’s presidency and under Ivica Racan’s government – in 2002?! Both of these men: communist die-hard, anti Croatian independence from Yugoslavia.

How hard can it be for the government to temporarily place a moratorium over the introduction of Cyrillic in Vukovar, as the parliamentary opposition led by Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ proposes! How hard can it be for the government to bring about a temporary law of inapplicability of the parts of the Constitutional law that relates to ethnic minority language on official signage, as the Croatian Party of Rights “Dr Ante Starcevic” propose! How hard can it be for the government to be effective in reviewing a Constitutional law that evidently and strongly brings unrest and upheaval among its people!

While, in regards to the protests against Cyrillic in Vukovar, President Ivo Josipovic stated a few days ago that if there is no will to respect a Constitutional law then that law must be changed. What a pity that the government appears not to have heard this statement, which was widely publicised in Croatia and beyond. But still, if he is true to his words then Josipovic could easily make a move to have the law that is causing so much unrest in Croatia, changed. There are certainly many, many ways of respecting the ethnic minorities’ rights in daily lives, without having to erect bilingual or trilingual or multilingual official signage on streets and buildings. “Western” democracies have, one can safely say, perfected this through access to interpreters, translators, translations of public service brochures into applicable ethnic minority languages, subsidising ethnic language classes, subsidising ethnically or culturally specific nursing homes or retirement complexes … and the list goes on. But signage in official spots – streets, government buildings, etc. – stay in the official language of the country.

Sadly, it would seem that the Croatian government lacks the moral fiber similar to the one, which those who have read Françoise Sagan’s novel “Bonjour Tristesse” encountered. In the case of Croatia today, of Croatia of the past two decades, that lack of moral fiber has to do with the neglect of Croatian people and the neglect in asserting and strengthening their hard-won struggle for self-determination; that lack of moral fiber has to do with psychological and political warfare against the Croatian patriots by the die-hard Communists. But, thankfully, Croatians are largely intelligent and good people and it would not surprise me if the government, by pursuing the hard rule of existing laws, without utilizing the freedom it has to change laws in order to achieve its majority people’s needs, will drive itself into political suicide. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions:

All content on “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is for informational purposes only. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is not responsible for and expressly disclaims all liability for the interpretations and subsequent reactions of visitors or commenters either to this site or its associate Twitter account, @IVukic or its Facebook account. Comments on this website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writer will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The nature of information provided on this website may be transitional and, therefore, accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed. This blog may contain hypertext links to other websites or webpages. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information on any other website or webpage. We do not endorse or accept any responsibility for any views expressed or products or services offered on outside sites, or the organisations sponsoring those sites, or the safety of linking to those sites. Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome and encouraged to voice their opinion regardless of identity, politics, ideology, religion or agreement with the subject in posts or other commentators. Personal or other criticism is acceptable as long as it is justified by facts, arguments or discussions of key issues. Comments that include profanity, offensive language and insults will be moderated.
%d bloggers like this: