Home> POLITICS > Croatia Right-Wingers Provoke Bad Memories of 1941

Croatia Right-Wingers Provoke Bad Memories of 1941

  • Source:www.balkaninsight.com
  • Date:2018-05-08 07:08

A campaign for a referendum to downgrade the authority of Croatia’s Serb MPs and other ethnic minority parliamentarians brings back memories of orders issued by the country’s WWII-era fascist regime.

“Are you in favour of adding an Article 72.a after Article 72 of the constitution of the Republic of Croatia that states: ‘Representatives of national minorities can decide on all issues that fall under the competency of the Croatian parliament, except for confidence in the government and the adoption of the state budget?’”

That’s one of two questions - the key one - in a document that a public campaign called Narod odlučuje (The People Decide) will start using next week as it begins to collect signatures in a bid to trigger a referendum, with the idea of getting people to force the authorities to "change the electoral system in Croatia" by "democratic voting", as the document puts it.

Narod odlučuje envisages several more important changes, including reducing the number of representatives of national minorities in parliament, and enabling voting by post or electronically, which, as the campaign states, "would allow 800,000 Croats in the diaspora to vote".

The group, which is being promoted most intensively in public appearances by prominent member Sanja Bilac, has emerged from the country’s Christian fundamentalist movement, in which the most significant person is Zeljka Markic, head of the conservative campaign group In the Name of the Family.

For several years now, with strong ideological, logistical and material support from the dominant Church, the fundamentalist movement has been trying to design a Croatian society in the Catholic-chauvinist spirit and impose rigid conservative standards as a general obligation.

After a previous referendum, a discriminatory clause has already been added to the constitution, according to which marriage is a legally accepted relationship exclusively between a man and a woman.

The first voice calling for the holding of a referendum aimed at changing the electoral system was heard in autumn last year. It came from a far-right radical politician, Anto Djapic, who explained that such a mass plebiscite would finally complete “the process of forming the Croatian people” into a full-developed nation.

Djapic said that he himself would "block any possibility of [political] activity by the parties of national minorities, such as the SDSS (Samostalna Demokratska Srpska Stranka, the Independent Democratic Serb Party)".

Therefore the basic idea of the referendum venture is to implement and formalise the segregation of political representatives of national minorities through the constitution, especially those representing the Serbs, and to divide parliament into first- and second-class members.

So Serbs and others would be allowed to sit in parliament - in a numerically more modest amount than before, of course - but they would have no right to decide on the most important issues. This honour would be reserved only for members of the dominant group, including the delegates of those "800,000 Croats in the diaspora".

In other words: if they have to be here, the Serbs should behave as if they were not.

Acting according to the same motivations, in recent years there has been constant pressure on the weekly newspaper

Novosti, which is issued by the Serbian National Council. Leaders of the fundamentalist movement and right-wing political circles have persistently demanded that state budget funds for

Novostibe cut as long as its editorial policy is that of "a regular weekly newspaper" rather than dealing with folkloric themes and problems that are tied exclusively to the Serbian community.

In other words: if they want to have their newspaper, the Serbs must keep it in a ghetto, and any disobedience or thematic transgressions will be punished by the suspension of finances. That is, if they have to be here, the Serbs should behave as if they were not.

Some journalists and politicians of liberal provenance have criticised the referendum initiative. But there were no signs of massive indignation or revolt, let alone collective condemnation, nor there is a signal that this "democratic decision-making" process with its openly chauvinist-racist pretensions - its ambition of formally discriminating against the "minority" and depriving its members of the rights that ethnic Croats enjoy - could be declared unlawful. Cool-headed analysts estimate that the chances for the referendum to be held and to end with a "positive" outcome are higher than expected.

This caused me to recall an event which happened a long time ago. In August 1993,

Feral Tribunenewspaper - two months after it was launched - published a facsimile of an order issued by the Croatian fascist Ustasa headquarters in Dubrovnik dated June 1941, which was signed by its then commander Ivo Rojnica.

At the point at which


Tribunerevived memories of this document, Rojnica still enjoyed the status of a respectable and responsible citizen, and had been newly appointed as Croatia’s ambassador to Buenos Aires by President Franjo Tudjman.

This is what the order signed by Rojnica in 1941 said:

“It is forbidden for all Jews and Serbs to walk on the streets as well as to keep their stores open from 7pm to 7am.

Any intervention through the Ustasa command and other Ustasa institutions related to the order above is forbidden.

Anyone violating the above order will be punished according to Ustasa regulations.

This order comes into force immediately and remains in force until its revocation.

Ready for the Home[land]!”

Ivo Rojnica's order from 1941. Photo: Scribd.

According to the order, as we can see, Jews and Serbs, and their stores, were obliged to disappear from 7pm to 7am from all public areas of the city of Dubrovnik, as well as all other cities in the then NDH (Independent State of Croatia). They were not allowed to enjoy the rights reserved for ethnic Croats. In other words: if they have to be here, they should behave as if they were not.

This was June 1941, and only several months later, “if they have to be here” became “they do not have to be here”, because the ban on walking around was reformulated into a ban on breathing, and Serbs and Jews who had failed to save their skins by running away were awaiting extermination on the spot or were "deported" under Ustasa regulations to the Jasenovac concentration camp and other placed that shared the same purpose.


Feral's publication of the order caused anger internationally, Franjo Tudjman dismissed Ivo Rojnica for tactical reasons, although Rojnica told the media that "enemies of the Croatian state" from the weekly magazine "set him up", targeted him for "public defamation" and "forced the president into such action".

His loss of position in Argentina, however, was compensated for with honours in the homeland: the beloved president gave Rojnica a high state honour, while Catholic Church officials celebrated him as a living saint.

Archbishop Frane Franic, for example, said the signatory of the racist decree was a "deeply religious man" who "deserves the highest Croatian medals", as if it had been June 1941.

Almost 80 years have now passed, but faith in the “process of forming the Croatian people” into a fully-developed nation has resisted the ravages of time.

The referendum initiative is not just comparable to the policies of the fascist NDH – it is exactly the same.

Viktor Ivancic is a columnist for Novosti and Pescanik, and one of the founders of the Croatian anti-establishment weekly magazine Feral Tribune.

This article was first published onPescanik.net.

The opinions expressed in the Comment section are those of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect the views of BIRN.

  • Source:www.balkaninsight.com
  • Date:2018-05-08 07:08
Key Words:referendum,Croatian,Serbs,order,Croatia
Recommended For You
Related News