Still At Political Crossroads – Croatian Parliament and Statehood Turn 33 

The Republic of Croatia celebrates its Statehood Day on May 30. That was the date in 1990 when the first democratically elected parliament that would lead Croatia out of the communist Yugoslavia oppressive clutch was inaugurated. It was the time that threatened and preceded unseen horror, Yugoslav Army and Serb aggression, mass murders, ethnic cleansing – epic cruelty and destruction against Croatia and Croats. It was the year after the fall of Berlin Wall when communist regimes came crushing down across Eastern Europe and around it. This was evidently a million times easier for most countries there than for Croatia. Croatia was part of Yugoslavia that was stitched together by Allied imperialistic forces siding with ominous ambitions of the dictatorial Serbian Monarch immediately after the First World War. During World War Two the emerging communist forces crushed the Croatian fight for independence amidst this yet another war marked by brutal politics and destruction on all sides. 

2023 marks the 33rd anniversary of the constitution of the first democratic and multi-party Parliament, and we remember May 30, 1990, when, after decades of communist rule, the foundations of the modern Croatian Parliament were created and its historical role in preserving Croatian statehood was confirmed. But, as far as freedom from communism it is more than clear that those foundations of a new, democratic, and independent of communist fibres state, were indeed false. Communist mindset and communist heritage like a constant pest evidently remained in deeds of many, underground or out in the open.

The complete victory over Yugoslav communist and Serbian aggression occurred in late 1998 and the year after that saw the death of Croatia’s first president, Franjo Tudjman, who was undoubtedly the human force of liberation and freedom from communist Yugoslavia that held the majority of Croatians in Croatia and across the world together. As a force of unity and freedom to be reckoned with. Then, year 2000, general and presidential elections, with the emergence on the political scene of communism prone politicians who were either communist operatives in former Yugoslavia or personally associated with those. This transition into would be democracy saw problems arising in several aspects of Croatia’s democracy, steepest decline occurring in the area of corruption (that was exceedingly prevalent in communist Yugoslavia), or rather, stamping it out. 

Albeit with minor changes or cosmetic fiddling, most laws in Croatia even today are reported to be dating back to communist Yugoslavia. Very little, if any, radical or appropriate changes in legislature that would thoroughly reflect the needs of a developing democracy, free from communist indoctrination. The independence of the judiciary, for instance, are merely writings on paper and in real life the Croatian judiciary is not independent of political influence and interference. An example of this appalling state in Croatia could be the one I recently experienced during my current visit to Croatia: the Croatian Orthodox Church (that gathered together in faith Serbs living in Croatia who considered an independent Croatia their home), crushed by Serb-led communist Yugoslavia regime in May 1945 (murdering its leadership in the process), had for at least a decade been endeavouring to achieve its registration as a religious community in Croatia, like any other, only to be faced with the government Minister’s overturning of court of law judgment, after a seven year court battle, permitting its registration with government authorities.  All that time Croatia’s government generously finances the Serbian Orthodox Church in Croatia, totally ignoring the fact that there are thousands of Serbs of orthodox faith living in Croatia who do not wish to belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church. So much for religious freedom in Croatia! To me this looks more like political freedom that ignores all the values of Croatia’s 1990’s Homeland War and the fight for freedom for which 94% of voters had once said “Yes” to and for which rivers of blood were spilled.

The judiciary had its ups and downs, resistant to change, resistant to asserting its obligatory independence within a democracy!  In 2021, for instance, the Supreme Court finally issued a verdict in the long-running Fimi Media case against former prime minister Ivo Sanader and the ruling Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ, finding Sanader guilty and the ruling party responsible for siphoning public funds from state enterprises. Several other high-profile corruption cases have emerged since then, arrests of government ministers among other heads of companies or organisations. However, the judicial branch has not even begun to improve, and the justice system remains under the influence of the HDZ. Social Democratic Party/SDP (former League of Communists), by the way, wore the same boots when it held government during the past 33 years. 

One may indeed ask what’s the use of implementation of government’s various models to fight the runaway corruption in Croatia when in, 2023, its Minister can overturn a Court judgment with a blink of an eye and no repercussions!  I know how this would rate on an independent scale measuring progress of democracy in Croatia!

Indeed, just as it was in communist Yugoslavia, the judiciary in Croatia remains the weakest link in Croatia’s anti-corruption framework: on ‘perceived independence’ it scored lowest in the EU in a 2022 Eurobarometer survey

Corruption cases were a constant in recent years, involving judges, high party officials of the ruling HDZ and opposition, former ministers, and local officials. Although corruption is characterised as one of Croatia’s biggest problems, institutions and the political elite have continued to do only the bare minimum to fight it. And despite registering high levels on corruption perception indexes, citizens also do not use the tools at their disposal, especially elections, to get rid of corrupt politicians. Less than 50% utilise their right to vote at elections within Croatia, while access to polling places for others, such as those living abroad, is brutally restricted or made impossible due to distance and unreasonable personal expenses needed to “catch” a ballot paper.

Given that the judiciary system is a backbone of every functioning democracy it disappoints enormously that 33 years on, in essence and despite existing official statements, Croatian justice system continues as if it was still operating within corrupt communist Yugoslavia.

What tragedy this is!

33 years after its inauguration the Croatian Parliament has only it seems produced worries about independent and democratic Croatia for which multitudes of lives were lost and sacrificed in 1990’s. Through the 33 years one has come and comes across individuals who say that they are better off than what they were in former Yugoslavia – especially those living on the Adriatic Sea, which breaks new tourist records every year (income from tourism is a single major contributor to the state budget). But it seems, the future of the country, to many, looks bleak. More and more young people emigrate (hundreds of thousands in the past decade) because they reportedly don’t see any prospects there. The economy and its self-sustainability have been brought to a crisis point that depends on funds dished out by the European Union. Harvesting of the enormous potential which the Croatian diaspora represents has only been a play of politicians’ words, without follow up in actions. No commitment in all these decades has emerged to place into action a national strategy of making the return (on a larger and needed scale) or the investments from its diaspora happen. Well, I would conclude, former Yugoslavia loathed the Croatian diaspora (because it represented fleeing from horrible communist oppression) and the current official Croatia has done little in attracting and systematically supporting that diaspora to return. Instead, Croatia appears to be allowing the key people for its future to leave the country or not come in at all!    

2024 as a huge electoral year in Croatia (General, Presidential and European Parliament elections) is lining up in the minds of many people as “make or break what Croatia fought for in the 1990’s”, is at the doorstep. The HDZ rule, coupled with its aggressive anti-Croat Serb minority coalition, has proven quite incapable of taking the country there where its founder Franjo Tudjman (and 94% of the voting population) headed (free from corruption, communism; a prosperous Croatian state). The SDP/ Social Democratic Party, found among opposition parties and once quite strong on the political and electoral platform, is utterly incapable of changing anything. The other political parties forming the so-called parliamentary opposition together with SDP resemble an army of leadership hopefuls, ego warriors, that do not have the will or the wish to collaborate with each other to make changes for Croatia as a nation that would bring it back on track with the values cemented by the battle for independence and democracy in 1990’s. While it is in life prudent and necessary for progress not to enter into collaboration with anyone or everyone, but surely, a select few could form a formidable force of change; but only if individual egos are left outside the door. Alarmingly, the ultra-left communist Yugoslavia prone smaller parties appear to be on the rise in the parliament and in the streets. They show no decency nor respect for the grave price Croats paid in 1990’s for an independent state. I often wonder whether this is so because such politicians are not about to admit to the horrendous communist crimes against Croats perpetrated by the regime their family members or friends collaborated with willingly; they are not about to return to the rightful owners the valuable properties their communist ancestors stole from freedom-loving Croats post World War Two.

Is the fight against communist mindset in Croatia still worth our energy, one might ask! You bet it is! 

On my personal spiritual note, Jesus Christ was 33 years old when the persecution, horrible torture against his good teachings culminated in his crucifixion; but he gloriously arose from the dead, anyway! Has the 1990 will of Croatian people for freedom from communism been living the same destiny in the past 33 years? Ina Vukic 

Commemorating Victims of Communist Crimes: If Only They Would Honour Victims By Seating A Few Victim Families In Front Rows

Croatia, Macelj, 13 May 2023 – Commemorating victims of communist crimes, victim families without due honouring as seated away from front rows (Photo: Screenshot)

It seems to me that I have spent half my life wondering “What and who does the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon association serve” (Počasni bleiburški vod) since the organisation of the commemoration of the victims of communist crimes of Bleiburg and the Way of the Cross was stolen from the Croatian diaspora and planted in Zagreb, riddled with former communist operatives. I see, namely, that these commemorations are organised in such a way that they induce the effect of diminishing the significance and horror of the victimhood, of several hundred thousand post World War Two victims!

At the commemoration of these victims of Yugoslav communism held in Donji Macelj on Saturday, May 13, 2023, I finally realised, with a heavy heart, that the most important thing in this commemoration to the organisers and sponsors are not the victims and their descendants (who are also victims) but the descendants of Yugoslav communist murderers or their ideology, for they sat in first rows, not the victims. They, not the descendants of the victims, sat in the first rows, closest to the altar from which Holy Mass in memory of the victims was said! So, in the first rows, on the chairs that signify honouring, not a single victim of that terrible genocide of the innocent Croatian people sat, not a single descendant of theirs! Most of the Croatian government sat there, and they were the first to be greeted! This year, as in previous years, the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon organised the commemoration according to the same pattern and under the sponsorship of the Croatian Parliament: the ruling elite in the first row, closest to the altar, and neither the piety nor the prayers for the victims were visible on their faces or lips from where I sat, along with numerous descendants of the victims. Archbishop of Zagreb Mon. Drazen Kutlesa, leading the Holy Mass, delivered a deeply moving speech focusing on the victims of the communist terror. In Macelj alone 10,000 of them in 130 mass graves so far unearthed. But the Catholic Church was not the organiser of this commemoration, nor of the seating arrangements.

When someone like me comes to Croatia from the so-called civilised world, where at similar commemorations the victims or their representatives are placed in the front rows, often next to the President of a country or the Prime Minister, then this Croatian commemoration leaves the impression of shallowness and superficiality of piety and lack of remorse on behalf of those murderers in whose Party they were once members. This Croatian commemoration was about elitism of those holding power in the country and not so much about demonstrating respect for victims and their families. This is very sad as far as I am concerned and deserves utter condemnation. 

Croatia, Macelj, 13 May 2023 – Commemorating victims of communist crimes, political elites, associated with communist murderers either through family or ideology seated in front rows (Photo: Screenshot)

An unpleasant impression was created that this commemoration created new victims (victims of the commemoration) because, well, those who are associated with communist ideology and regime terror that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent Croatian men, women, children and members of the Croatian Army that fought in the Second World War for independence of Croatia were sitting in places of honour during the commemoration; regardless of the fact that the European Union also condemned the communist totalitarian regime. They were not sitting there like those who have already publicly and vehemently condemned these communist crimes and erected monuments to their victims across the country. No, they still let wild grass and weeds grow over mass graves and around the openings of deep pits full of victim remains. 

To me and to most decent, compassionate people this arrangement of seating at the commemoration is perceived as glorification of the perpetrators of the crimes over the victims who are being commemorated, and a kind of license to continue belittling the victims and underplaying communist crimes in the public and state-official space. 

Universally, the right to truth is often invoked in the context of gross violations of human rights and serious violations of humanitarian law. The right to truth implies knowing the full and complete truth about the events that took place, their specific circumstances and the persons who participated in them, including knowing the circumstances in which the violations occurred, as well as the reasons for them. Not in official Croatia. Not about communist crimes. Given that the seating arrangement at the commemoration in Macelj is a measure for revealing the truth, then it seems that these victims will have to wait a long time for it. Unfortunately! 

There is an awful, most unpleasant on humanity’s level, political phenomenon gaining more and more momentum in Croatia. Creating havoc, social division, and heartbreak (especially for victims of heinous communist crimes that are tantamount to genocide). One would have expected the passing time and commemoration of victims would yield a tolerable peace of mind; calmness, forgiveness on national level. However, with the relatively widespread communist mindset in places of power, on local and national levels, the passing time has only brought more determination in those associated in the past with communist operatives to keep justifying and glorifying the atrocious communist crimes and keep labelling the victims and their families as Fascists or Ustashas; even if the latter do not exist and even if the victims were largely not Ustashas during World War Two, and Fascism as such did not exist as a regime in Croatia. The frequent celebration in Croatia of former Yugoslavia’s communist symbols and leaders on the streets of Croatia today is sickening. It is also incredulous that, since year 2000, Croatia has not produced leaders in power who would address this injustice and kick forward a decisive transition from communism.   

Today, 19 May 2023 marks 32 years since 1991 referendum with which Croatians said no to communism, no to Yugoslavia! That 94% “No” vote cost Croatia enormously – 1990’s Homeland War that ensued after Yugoslav Army and Serb aggression. Rivers of blood, rivers of ethnically cleansed Croats from their homes, unfathomable brutality of Serb aggressor and devastating destruction of homes and infrastructure. That, coupled with the arms embargo against Croatia at the time, compared to today and the persistent communist plague interfering with democracy and transition from communism imposes a certain kind of mass restlessness in those faced with such injustice that must, sooner or later, find catharsis. That is simply human nature.  Ina Vukić

Croatia: Tito’s Bloodthirsty Unpunished Genocide

The month of May is one of the most poignant months for Croatians. Patriotic Croats, those who fought for independence during and since World War Two commemorate the victims of communist crimes, the multitudes of thousands brutally murdered at Bleiburg (Austria) in May 1945 and the hundreds of thousands murderously purged post WWII (Way of the Cross), while the communists and former communists celebrate what they call their liberation of Croatia in May 1945! The historical fact remains that Croatia was not liberated, it was forced to remain as part of Yugoslavia and the weapon used for that was genocide and mass murders of Croats who rejected communism.  

8th of May 2023 the so-called antifascists in Croatia, communists actually, celebrated “their” liberation of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, on May 8th 1945. Sickening accolades to murderous communists/partisans rang painfully in our ears because the historical facts point to absolutely nothing that can humanely be celebrated. The remains of brutal murder of innocent Croats by the partisans, including children, filled mass unmarked graves on the fields around the capital as well as its main cemetery Mirogoj. The fact is that archived boxes of death records in the cemetery contain names of people, men, women, and children whose date of death is recorded as 8th May 1945.  These registers of deaths speak of 8th May 1945 as a very sad day for Zagreb, on which many innocent people murdered and suffered terribly. There are tens of mass graves around Zagreb, alone. All those deaths and massacres occurred on 8th May 1945. Does this signify liberation! Not by a long shot. Partisans had orders: locate the people on the list they were given, take them within the hour and kill them! This pattern of killing is found in records of all cities, towns, and villages in Croatia from 8th May 1945 onwards.

More than one thousand mass graves, many of which contain several thousand victims of communist crimes, have been unearthed in Croatia; more than 1800 when those unearthed in Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are counted. Yugoslavia’s Josip Broz Tito has been labelled by several credible academics and politicians across the world as among top ten mass murderers of 20th century

Zagreb was occupied, not liberated on 8th May 1945. Occupied in every possible way by genocidal communist forces as directed by communist Yugoslavia leader Josip Broz Tito using Stalinist communist methods that murdered some 36 million innocent Russian lives. After which a murderous totalitarian dictatorship followed in Yugoslavia.

The fact is that Yugoslavia was the most unsuccessful European country of the 20th century. There is no country in Europe, which is in its seventy years of existence, from December 1918 to January 1992, twice created and twice disintegrated in the seas of blood of its citizens. The first Yugoslavia (two versions of Kingdoms headed by Serbian Monarchy) lasted less than 22, and the other (communist Yugoslavia) for less than 47 years – together they survived less than the average life expectancy of European citizens. All possible economic and political arrangements have been tried in Yugosavia so that it could be preserved.  It was capitalist and socialist, monarchical and republican, genocidal and murderous, unitarist and federalist, pluralist and monistic, the king’s right-wing and the marshal’s left-wing dictatorship. She was in the West and the East, undecided and unaligned. Nothing helped. Yugoslavia fell in early 1990’s – rivers of blood just like during and post World War Two, but Croatia finally emerged free of the Yugoslav communist terror.

This genuine freedom though, is still being undermined and cut and disrespected. Instead of organising commemrations to victims of communist crimes during May 2023 the powers that rule Croatia celebrate false liberation! They are the participants in continued denial of justice to these victims! The occupation, not liberation, of Croatia in 1945 was initially physical, murders. Yugoslav/Partisan military forces killed many tens of thousands of Croatian, prisoners of war and civilians in Slovenia and Austria after the formal end of the war in 1945 and the slaughter continued for decades to come. This was not discussed in historiography and politics until the collapse of Yugoslavia in early 1990’s, partly because the state hid and erased the traces of its abominable crimes and because, through intimidation, it forced millions of inhabitants to remain silent – to live in a kind of schizophrenia in which they could not forget the past, and were not allowed to remember it. Then the communists turned to property, they sent innocent people to their deaths in order to steal their properties. The political occupation followed which was characterised by oppression, political prisoners, assasinations at home and in the diaspora of Croatian patriots and multitudes fleeing the country to the West in fear for their lives.

In June 2006 the Croatian Parliament adopted bz a large majority the DECLARATION ON THE CONDEMNATION OF CRIMES COMMITTED DURING THE TOTALITARIAN COMMUNIST REGIME IN CROATIA 1945-1990. Given today’s developments and those after that year in which former communists took more and more power in Croatia for whose independence they spilled not a single drop of blood, includes the following paragraphs: 

„… 4. The fall of totalitarian communist orders (regimes) in Central and Eastern Europe was not in all cases, and not even in the case of the Republic of Croatia, accompanied by national and/or international investigations of the crimes committed by those regimes. In fact, the perpetrators of these crimes were not brought before the court of the international community, as was the case with the terrible crimes committed by National Socialism (Nazism).

5. As a consequence, there is a very low level of awareness among the public of former communist countries, including the Croatian public, about crimes committed by totalitarian communist regimes…

6. The Croatian Parliament is convinced that people’s knowledge and awareness of historical events is one of the prerequisites to avoid similar crimes in the future. In fact, moral assessment and condemnation of committed crimes play an important role in the education of young generations. A clear attitude of the international and national communities towards the past can and must be a guideline for our future actions.

7. The Croatian Parliament believes that victims of the crimes of totalitarian communist regimes who are still alive or their families deserve sympathy, understanding and recognition for their suffering…“ (Croatian National Gazette/Narodne Novine  NN 76/06 od 10.07.2006)

And this very parliament continues to promote the communist murderers, continues to justify these abominable crimes, continues to degrade the victims of communist crimes they condemned. It is truly sickening! Even more so knowing that this is not even a bit penalised by the European Union of which Croatia is a member state and which condemned most strongly all totalitarian regimes including the communist.

There is absolutely no doubt that the communist system was the most criminal of all totalitarian ones; of the fascist one, of the National Socialism one. The numbers of victims testify to that, the manner of killings testify to that… Croatian government of today, its cronies and parties of interest, with their public displays about liberation of Croatia in May 1945, have the audacity to claim that Croatia was liberated by mass murderers (of its wn people). Communist Leader Josip Broz Tito is still revered by quite a few and so is the communist five-pointed red star on the Yugoslav flag that was smothered by the bloody fight for independence during 1990’s. Several hundreds of thousands of innocent Croats have died at Tito’s orders, but there has been no trial for the communist criminals who caused the suffering, according to some published court opinions in Croatia during the last decade it was the communist system, not the individual criminals, who murdered (e.g. the 2014 case of Josip Boljkovac)! Communist crimes and their perpetrators have not been prosecuted, not even posthumously! The push in Croatia to label cold blooded murder by communists as political murders appears to be yet another tool of injustice towards victims in Croatia. Tito has not been prosecuted posthumously, either! Every possible excuse under the sun has been used by the government to avoid prosecution of communist crimes in Croatia.

And so, this May 2023, Croatia stands as divided almost never before. It is an independent state, free from former Yugoslavia but the remnants of Yugoslavia are felt and visible at every turn. The independence achieved through the Homeland War of 1990’s appears as something not at all important to the government and majority in parliament. They are more occupied with keeping the communist Yugoslavia spirit and mind alive than with anything else. Sheer cruelty towards own nation!

The reality in Croatia shows that the most powerful state and social institutions in Croatia persistently avoid confronting and distancing themselves from the criminal communist past. Moreover, within the Croatian state and social institutions, the criminal paradigm of Yugoslav communism and its value system, symbols and personality cult are advocated more and more openly and vulgarly.

We count our blessings, though, in all those who will, starting 12 May 2023, be commemorating the hundreds of thousands Croatian victims of communist crimes at Bleiburg, Austria, and the Way of the Cross, across Croatia, at mass graves and pits. Ina Vukic   

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